Jeff Ruland had 13 points and 11 rebounds as the Washington Bullets defeated the San Antonio Spurs, 109-104, tonight for their fourth victory in five NBA exhibition games.

The stands at Madison Square Garden were virtually empty at the start of the game, the crowd preferring to be fashionably late for the second game in tonight's doubleheader -- the New York Knicks, with Patrick Ewing, against the Houston Rockets, led by Ralph Sampson and Akeem Olajuwon.

In that game, Ewing scored a game-high 21 points in his pro debut in Madison Square Garden, but the Knicks lost to the Rockets, 91-83, before 17,448, an exhibition-game record at the Garden.

Ruland led Washington, but eight of the 13 players who participated for the Bullets scored at least eight points.

In addition, the team continued to display the solid defense that has characterized its exhibition season, something that has pleased Coach Gene Shue. "The defense has been the steadiest part of our game," he said. "I think that the teams that play better defense will generally do well, so we'll do well."

The Bullets trailed, 24-23, after the opening quarter, mainly because of Spurs forward Mike Mitchell, who scored 13 of his game-high 31 points in the first 12 minutes. As in the Bullets' previous games, though, the second unit gave Washington a lift, outscoring San Antonio's substitutes, 32-18, in the second quarter to give the Bullets a 55-42 halftime lead. Although the Spurs would make sporadic runs, the game was not in doubt from that point.

"Things are really coming together," said Ruland, who had a brief scare when he bruised a foot late in the game. "There are some minor things to do on defense. After that it's just hard work and getting back to the same thing -- staying healthy."

The Bullets will play two more preseason games: Saturday against Chicago in Norfolk, and Sunday against Philadelphia in Richmond. Washington's regular season begins Oct. 25 at Atlanta.