The Washington Bullets controlled the tempo, slowing the fast-breaking Philadelphia 76ers to a walk today. But the Bullets still couldn't keep the 76ers in check, losing their third straight game, 102-93.

The 76ers outrebounded the Bullets, 58-43, outmuscling them inside as they improved to 8-1, second-best in the NBA. The Bullets (3-6) have lost seven straight to Philadelphia.

The 76ers, playing before 17,192 at the Spectrum and a national television audience, weren't their usual free-wheeling selves. Instead, they were content to set up and get the ball inside to Moses Malone and Julius Erving. Malone had 20 points and 19 rebounds and Erving 25 points.

Greg Ballard had 22 points and nine rebounds for the Bullets.

"Washington got us to play the type of game that suited them," said 76ers Coach Billy Cunningham. "In a game like that you have to play good defense and we did today. The defense won it for us."

Bullets Coach Gene Shue wasn't pleased with much of anything his team did today, except controlling the tempo.

"We're struggling badly," he said. "We can't get any kind of balance in our inside game and our outside game. We aren't even making our open shots. We get them (the 76ers) to play our style of game and we still can't win. Whenever the time comes for a big play, we don't deliver . . . We just aren't getting the job done."

The game began badly for the Bullets. With the score at 2-2, Philadelphia scored 10 straight points, holding the Bullets scoreless for 5 minutes 29 seconds.

The Bullets managed to stay in the game only because Philadelphia, playing its third game in 44 hours, didn't have much zip. The Sixers shot only 32 percent in the first quarter and the Bullets escaped the period trailing by only 11.

John Lucas got Washington going in the second period. In one stretch, the Bullets managed a 19-4 run to turn an 11-point deficit into a 35-31 advantage. Lucas, who has played well the last three games, scored two points and had four assists in the splurge while Spencer Haywood had six of the points, Jeff Ruland five and Ballard four.

The 76ers, who comitted 31 turnovers against Indiana Friday in their only loss thus far, committed six in the seven-minute stretch when the Bullets overtook them.

Two baskets by Erving inside and an offensive rebound and basket by backup center Earl Cureton got the 76ers a four-point lead later in the half, but a driving basket by Lucas at the buzzer cut the Philadelphia margin to 43-41.

Haywood tied the score at 43 on the Bullets' first possession of the third period, but Philadelphia then outscored its opponent, 10-2, with four points by Andrew Toney and four by Erving, to take a 53-45 lead. It was never seriously threatened after that.

"We got them to play our game, but they killed us on the boards," said Frank Johnson. "We always got only one shot and they got as many as they needed."

Johnson had his best game in three outings for the Bullets, with 13 points and eight assists, but his starting guard mate, rookie Bryan Warrick, went scoreless for the third straight game and has missed 17 of his last 19 shots.

"I'm still searching for a back court," said Shue. "Every game is the same. I'm just looking for a combination that is consistent."