The Bullets did everything they wanted against the Philadelphia 76ers tonight--except beat them.

The 76ers lost Julius Erving with a sprained wrist early in the game and never really got going, but still managed to beat the Bullets for the second time in 24 hours, 97-93, at the Spectrum.

It was a virtual replay of Saturday night's 95-86 victory by the 76ers at Capital Centre.

The Bullets controlled the tempo and stayed close for 3 1/2 quarters, but faded in the final minutes tonight.

"We played as well as we can and were in the game most of the way," said Bullet Coach Gene Shue. "We're happy the way we played over the weekend, but we still lost two games. When you play the 76ers everyone likes to see showtime and we took that away, but they still beat us."

Erving reinjured his right hand blocking a shot in the second quarter. He went directly to the locker room and didn't reappear the rest of the night, finishing with only four points.

Erving, who missed two games earlier this season with the same injury to the back of his wrist, won't play against Indiana Tuesday, Coach Billy Cunningham said.

Consecutive baskets by Jeff Ruland, who had 22 points, closed the Bullets to 75-74 with 9:21 to play. The 76ers scored 10 of the next 12 points, however. Moses Malone, who led the 76ers with 24 points, started the rally with a three-point play and Andrew Toney, who had 23 points, ended it with one of his own.

The Bullets made the final score close by scoring the last five points.

The Bullets again played without forward Greg Ballard, who stayed home with strained ligaments in his lower back, but his replacement, Charles Davis, had another fine game. He had 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot. Rick Mahorn also had 21 points.

Ruland scored 11 points in the first quarter as the Bullets took a 19-18 lead, even though they shot only 33 percent. The 76ers shot 35 percent and committed eight turnovers.

The score was tied three times and the lead changed 12 times in the second quarter. The Bullets led, 45-43, at halftime.

The Bullets last led at 68-67 on a short jump shot by Mahorn with a minute left in the period.

Philadelphia ended it with a 6-0 run,, on baskets by Maurice Cheeks, Earl Cureton and Toney.

"We played our tempo and did everything but win," said Bullet guard Frank Johnson. "We just didn't take advantage of their mistakes. It was good we were able to play our game both nights, but we didn't get any wins."

Cunningham said the Bullets "did an excellent job of controlling the tempo, but we weren't as aggressive as we could have been in looking to run. We could have forced things better than we did, but I guess a lot of that has to do with the Bullets."

Washington dropped four games behind Atlanta in the race for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks beat Boston earlier in the day to move into fifth place, 4 1/2 games ahead of the Bullets.

This was the second of six games in eight nights for the Bullets. They will play Cleveland at Capital Centre Tuesday, then go to Atlanta Wednesday before games against the Knicks Friday at home and Saturday at Madison Square Garden.