The New York Knicks showed the Washington Bullets the benefits of depth and versatility last night. The beleaguered Bullets failed to score in the last 3 minutes 48 seconds and the Knicks scored the final nine points to win, 102-96, at Capital Centre.

The Bullets missed their last six shots, including two layups, and committed two turnovers. The Knicks scored seven of their last nine points from the foul line.

"We were running the plays he (Coach Gene Shue) wanted us to run, but we just missed some shots we shouldn't have," said Bullet forward Greg Ballard. "We were aggressive on defense, but we fouled and they made the foul shots."

The Knicks have now won four in a row and seven of their last eight. The Bullets lost for the fifth time in the last six games.

Knick forward Sly Williams sat-out the game with an ankle injury, and the Knicks played 6-foot-11 Bill Cartwright and 7-foot Marvin Webster at the same time. They also received a huge contribution from the most unlikely of sources, seldom-used rookie DeWayne Scales of LSU.

And, as usual, the Knicks were led by guards Michael Ray Richardson (22 points, 12 assists, three steals) and Ray Williams (20 points).

Cartwright scored 20 and Scales, who had scored just 21 points and was shooting 26 percent from the field this season, had 14. Elvin Hayes led Washington with 23 points and Ballard scored 20.

Larry Demic started in place of Sly Williams and was both ineffective and in foul trouble. So Coach Red Holzman used Webster at power forward. He, too, got into early foul trouble, and that left Holzman with Scales.

In 22 minutes, the 6-9 forward made seven of 11 shots and had seven rebounds and an assist. He scored eight of his points in the third quarter as the Knicks built an eight-point lead.

The Bullets caught up at 73-73, but Scales sank a pressure 15-footer from the baseline to put the Knicks back on top.

The Bullets opened the fourth period with six straight points, four by Greg Ballard, to take a 79-77 lead.

Midway through the quarter Scales scored three straight baskets, one a dunk on which he grabbed on offensive rebound with one hand and jammed it in on his way back to the floor.

Still, the Knicks couldn't pull away.

Two baskets by Richardson gave the New Yorkers a 91-88 lead with 6:09 remaining before the Bullets scored six unanswered points, four by Hayes.

Cartwright made a baseline jumper and Wes Matthews followed that with a driving layup to give the Bullets a 96-93 lead.

Two free throws by Campy Russell cut the Bullet lead to 96-95. Matthews missed a jump shot and Mitch Kupchak missed the follow on the Bullets next possession.

Webster tapped in a missed Russell shot at the other end to put New York ahead, 97-96.

Unseld missed a layup for the Bullets and Webster made two free throws after he was fouled by Ballard.

The Knicks later got two more free throws from Richardson and another from Williams while all the Bullets could do was miss three more shots and turned the ball over once.

For the first time since Nov. 1, the Bullets dressed 11 men for a game. Three of them didn't play, though -- recently signed David Britton and Keith McCord, and Rick Mahorn.

Austin Carr, who has been out since Nov. 24 after minor knee surgery, played for the first time since then last night and made two of five shots in 12 minutes.

The game featured a number of spectacular plays, including a perfect outlet pass three-quarters of the length of the floor from Wes Unseld to Ballard, a twisting-up-on-the-right-side-of-the-basket, shoot-from-the-left shot by Richardson and a spinning scoop shot over three Knicks by Matthews. But when the game was on the line, the Bullets came up with nothing.

"I'm frustrated as hell," said Shue. "I don't know what to do. We're exploring every possible way to improve the team, but so far we haven't come up with a trade that we thought would significantly improve the team. When the right thing comes along, it will be done."