"I don't think people understand the gravity of the situation," said guard Jeff Malone after the Washington Bullets lost their fifth straight NBA game Friday night.

The problem goes beyond the losses -- the latest being a 117-110 defeat Friday at the hands of the Detroit Pistons. In the next week, the Bullets will have to play the Pistons and Boston Celtics on the road Tuesday and Friday, then return home to Capital Centre to meet the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night.

If Washington should continue its current zero-for-November run, the next opportunity for victory would be Nov. 19 in New York against the Knicks. Coach Hubie Brown's team is one of the few NBA teams having more trouble scoring points -- and winning games -- than the Bullets, but Malone isn't even assuming anything positive would result there.

"There are so many good players now that anybody can beat you at any time," Malone said. "You can't go, 'We're playing New York, or we're playing Indiana, we'll beat them,' anymore."

Coach Gene Shue has caught a fair amount of flak for the Bullets' misfortunes, but he hardly was at fault late in Friday's game when, with the score tied at 105, the Bullets' players lost their composure, badly missing four straight field goal attempts during one possession.

"I think everyone thought they were in good position for the shot. The ball just wouldn't go down," said Cliff Robinson, who missed two of the attempts. Things were so hectic in the flurry that, after it was over, Gus Williams was seen giving counsel to Robinson on the merits of playing under control, which at the time seemed to be the prudent thing to do.

The brief interchange was important in that it illustrated another problem for the team: the lack of hands-on leadership.

"Everyone on the team is very laid back," said one player. "(Dan) Roundfield is, (Jeff) Ruland is, Gus is, Cliff and Malone are, even people like Darren (Daye) and Dudley (Bradley) are. There just really isn't anyone who's going to shake their fists in the air when they play or holler out, 'Let's go!' "

Before Friday night's game, Detroit Coach Chuck Daly said that, after looking at films of Washington games, "I don't see how they've lost to anybody." Indeed, in the Detroit game as well as in their previous two losses, the Bullets showed a great amount of potential.

Some of that was even apparent on the offensive end of the floor. The 110 points scored was a season high for the team and the fast break, more rumor than reality for most of the season, was much in evidence.

There also were signs of the depth that worked so well for the team during their 5-2 exhibition season. Roundfield scored 15 points and had 13 rebounds off the bench, Perry Moss scored six points and had four assists, and Bradley was a factor in the team's late-game surge, contributing two steals.