he vengeance with which Albert King slammed through the winning basket against the Bullets tonight released a lot of frustration for the former Maryland all-America.

"I really needed that," the New Jersey rookie said after the Nets' come-from-behind 98-96 victory before 15,263 at the Meadowlands. "I've been upset lately because I haven't been playing well."

This has been a frustrating season for King, whose problems started with a knee injury before he signed his contract. He has been starting since the Jan. 5 game at Capital Centre, but has played inconsistently.

In his last game, King sank only three of 13 shots and he had made just three of 10 before his final play tonight.

"I was so surprised the lane was so wide open that I hesitated a little before making my move," the slender 6-foot-6 forward said. "I don't drive that well, but it was open all the way to the basket, so I had to take it all the way."

King said the opening was created because the Bullets' Spencer Haywood left him after he inbounded the ball to Buck Williams to double-team Williams.

"I'm glad they didn't think I was going to shoot," he said with a grin. "They'll know better next time."

Although he finished with 10 points, six of them came in the final six minutes, when the Nets overcame an 83-78 deficit to beat the Bullets for the third time in five games. The season series will conclude here April 14 and another New Jersey victory would give them the edge if the teams end the season with identical records. Right now the Nets own a half-game edge.

"This was one of our most important games," King said. "It was close all the way (21 ties), and when you come from behind to win like that, it gives everybody a real boost mentally."

Williams, the game's top rebounder with 17, appeared more proud of the dunk by King, his former teammate at Maryland, than his own performance, which included 15 points and seven offensive rebounds.

"The force that Albert used to throw the ball down looked like he was back at Maryland," Williams said. "He's getting more confidence each game. Two months ago, he never would have tried a move like that.

"Coach (Larry Brown) has been encouraging Albert to do more, to try more things, He wants him to put the ball on the floor and go to the basket more. Albert is a great player. The people here haven't seen all the things he can do."

King is averaging 11.6 points per game, but has scored at a 15-point-a-game pace in his 43 starting assignments.

"For a guy who hasn't dribbled much in his life, Albert did all right on that last play," said Brown. "The play was set up for Ray (Williams) to come off a screen and drive, but the Bullets all ran to Ray. A lot of times, the guy who inbounds the ball tends to be open."

Brown said he was pleased with the Nets' defense after King's shot, although Kevin Grevey got a shot just inside the foul line that bounced hard off the back rim.

"When Grevey came off the screen, we jumped out at him," the coach said. "He just ducked under it, but he was offbalance when he shot.

"We did a good job of containing the Bullets' inside game," Brown continued. "They didn't get inside as much as they have in the past against us. I was really pleased with our defense and rebounding."

With Buck Williams leading the way, the Nets outrebounded the Bullets, 50-38, and had 18 offensive rebounds.