The Bullets lost center Rick Mahorn with a sprained ankle early in the game last night, but, fortunately, it was one of those rare times when they didn't need him.

Rookies Dave Batton and Joe Kopicki combined for 22 points and 12 rebounds in Mahorn's place and another reserve, Don Collins, scored 24 points for the Bullets, who recorded their most lopsided victory of the season, 121-98, over the Utah Jazz at Capital Centre.

Jeff Ruland had 25 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven assists to help the Bullets (31-36) to their second straight victory.

However, they failed to gain any ground on either New York or Atlanta in the playoff race. The Knicks easily beat the Philadelphia 76ers, 89-76, to remain 5 1/2 games ahead of the Bullets, and the Hawks beat the Indiana Pacers, 111-102, to stay five games ahead.

If the Bullets are to make the playoffs, they must catch either of the two. They have only 15 games left.

"I'm just going to keep telling the players we have to win every game we can and just see what happens," said Coach Gene Shue of his team's slim chance of making the playoffs.

Mahorn twisted his ankle five minutes into the game and was replaced. He tried to play briefly in two other periods. He played only eight minutes and had four points and two rebounds.

He is expected to play against the Bulls in Chicago Thursday.

"This was a different kind of game for us," said Shue. "We got great production from Batton and Kopicki. With Utah clogging the middle, we needed outside shooting. Even with Rick getting hurt, it worked out well for us."

Batton, shooting mainly 20-foot jump shots, made seven of 12 shots and scored 14 points, while Kopicki, an aggressive inside player, scored eight points and had 10 rebounds.

The Bullets' bench provided 51 points, its biggest production since Ruland became a starter 16 games ago.

Frank Johnson had 11 assists and didn't commit a turnover in 33 minutes and fellow guard, Ricky Sobers, had 19 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.

The Jazz started what Shue called "the biggest lineup I've ever seen," with 7-foot-4 Mark Eaton at center and 7-0 Rich Kelley at forward. Kelley went scoreless and had five rebounds, while Eaton had seven points, seven rebounds and seven blocked shots.

The Jazz led by as many as eight points in the first quarter, with Rickey Green scoring 12 points. Batton kept the Bullets in the game with eight points.

The Bullets caught up in the second period on the strength of a 10-2 rally, four of the points coming from Collins. His twisting layup gave the Bullets a 42-40 lead, and later in the period, with the Bullets trailing, 50-48, Collins scored six straight points to give them a four-point lead they held until halftime.

Utah tied the score at 62 early in the third quarter on back-to-back fast-break baskets by Jerry Eaves and John Drew, but the Bullets responded with eight straight points, four of them by Ruland, and the Jazz never recovered. The Bullets' lead grew to 90-76 going into the fourth period and Collins scored 14 points in the quarter to lead the runaway.

"This was just a real good game for us all the way around," said Shue.

Batton had his best game since he scored 15 points at Cleveland Jan. 8.

"My job is to provide outside shooting," he said Batton. "I understand that that's my role and I know I'm not going to play all that much. The situation arose tonight where they needed my shot. After you make a few, it becomes natural. Earlier in the season, I felt that if I missed one shot I'd be taken out, but I know that won't happen anymore."

The Jazz had six players in double figures, led by Drew's 20 points.