The struggling Washington Bullets hit a new low tonight, dropping a 136-118 decision to the Kansas City Kings that was a lot worse than the score indicated.

Trailing by 41 points after three periods, the Bullets needed a 47-24 fourth quarter to make the rout as respectable as it was. It was Washington's fifth straight loss and sixth in a row on the road.

Playing without Wes Unseld, on the bench with a sore right knee, the Bullets never were in contention after Kansas City ran off nine straight points late in the first period to open a 25-14 lead.

Kansas City made 63 percent of its shots in opening a 67-45 halftime lead, then bettered that by hitting 20 of 24 shots in the third period in building a 112-71 bulge.

Phil Ford, who led all scorers with 28 points and handed out 13 assists, had 13 points in the third period as the Kings consistently bolted through Washington's usually tight-knit defense for easy shots.

"The turning point came in the first couple of minutes of the third quarter," said Washington Coach Gene Shue. "They defensed us well and we made several turnovers. It was rather apparent that Unseld was sorely missed. He rebounds, makes the passes and plays the strong defense, the unselfish things to help the team -- things that are very difficult for us when he's not around.

"There's no doubt Kansas City had its best game of the season. They had a great, great game, but we had a lot to do with it. Without Unseld we don't have the combination of the right players to blend, plus we have some players who are struggling.

"Greg Ballard (three of seven shots) is really struggling with his jump shot and Elvin (Hayes) is having difficulty with his shot. Add that to our other problems and you can see the score."

Kansas City, which made 58 of 93 shots, 62.4 percent, for the game, had six players with 16 or more points. Rookie Hawkeye Whitney and Reggie King each added 20, Ernie Gurnfeld 19, Scott Wedman 17 and Leon Douglas 16.

The Kings put on a clinic in the second and third periods when they outscored the Bullets, 79-49. Douglas was six for six and Whitney hit four in a row for a 16-for-22 second period. With Ford directing a blistering fast break in the third period, the Kings scored almost at will against the NBA's top defense, winning their third straight for the first time this season. And the Kings, for the fourth straight game, did not have Otis Birdsong, the league's fourth-leading scorer.

Mitch Kupchak led the Bullets with 22 points and Kevin Grevey had 20, but 24 of their 42 points came in the final period.

Shue said Unseld's status is on a game-to-game basis.