Ray Williams said he didn't feel quite right before tonight's game because his pregame nap was cut short by a faulty alarm.

There certainly wasn't anything faulty about William's performance once he got to Madison Square Garden. The clever New York guard scored a career high 42 points and led the Knicks to a 107-104 victory over the Bullets.

The Bullets probably wish his alarm had never gone off, as Williams, a 6-foot-3 one-on-one specialist who has seemingly always been in the shadow of his brother Gus, made every type of shot imaginable against everybody the Bullets threw at him. He made driving left-handed layups, jump shots from the corners, dipsy-doodle playground shots and even a 27-foot three-point shot. t

Williams was just hot, said Bullet rookie Carlos Terry, who guarded Williams part of the game.

"Carelessness on their part helped us out a lot," Williams said. "They gambled a lot and we took advantage."

Williams hurt the Bullets with more than just his scoring. He collected eight rebounds and had six assists, two steals and a blocked shot. He also came up with a big play at the end to preserve the victory.

The Knicks had what appeared to be a comfortable 12-point lead early in the fourth period. But the Bullets kept plugging away, mainly behind the efforts of Kevin Porter and Mitch Kupchak, who combined for 14 points in a six-minute stretch.

The Bullets closed to within two, 102-100, with 1:32 left after an incredible drive by Wes Matthews. The Bullet rookie started from out beyond the top of the key, drove to his right, went under the basket and then came up on the other side with an off-balance bank shot that went in as he was fouled by Larry Demic. He converted the free throw.

Bill Cartwright and Elvin Hayes exchanged baskets and the Knicks still led by two, 104-102, with 50 seconds left.

Cartwright was fouled by Unseld, but made only one of two free throws for a three-point New York lead. Williams got the reboud after Cartwright missed his second shot, but traveled with the ball as he tried to keep it away from Matthews.

Hayes was fouled by Campy Russell at the other end of the floor and made two free throws with 27 seconds to bring the Bullets within one, 105-104.

The Bullets pressed, but Russell broke it and was fouled by Hayes when he went in for a dunk. He made two free throws to stretch the lead to three with 17 seconds remaining.

The Bullets called a timeout and planned a play, designed to get the ball to Greg Ballard in the corner for a three-point shot attempt. It never materialized.

"Wes (Unseld) screened my many Campy, but Marvin (Webster) switched out on me and K.P. (Kevin Porter) couldn't make the pass," Ballard said. "The Knicks knew we had to go for a three-point shot and they defensed us well."

"We wanted to go to Greg, but they switched on him and he was covered," said Porter. "I looked to Grevey and they had two men on him, so I tried to get the ball to the closest man."

That was Matthews, who was in position for a three-point shot from beyond the head of the key, but Williams stuck a hand in and knocked the ball away.

Shue had nothing but praise for his team afterwards, saying they played well. The defeat was only their second in the last six games.

They face the Boston Celtics Wednesday at Capital Centre.

Ballard continued his hot shooting tonight, scoring 21 points, the fourth straight game he has tallied more than 20. He also had 11 rebounds and five assists.

Five other Bullets scored in double figures.

Grevey returned to action after missing the last two games with bronchitis and a bone bruise on his shooting hand. He said his hand was still sore, but he had recovered from the bronchitis. He played 16 minutes, but made only three of 10 shots.

Carlos Terry started his third straight game at guard and contributed 12 first-quarter points as the Bullets opened an eight-point lead.

The Knicks, playing without starting forward Sly Williams, out with a sprained ankle, then made a substitution that proved to be a key to the outcome. Coach Red Holzman went with a two center offense of Webster and Cartwright. The lineup gave the Knicks the inside strength they needed to battle the Bullets on the boards. As a reserve, the 7-foot Webster scored 11 points and 11 rebounds.