Bullets dignity Sunday came from a player leaving basketball for another arena. As usual, Tom McMillen's lines in the locker room were more impressive than his line on the stat sheet.

"It's been nice playing a kid's game," he said, looking forward to the grown-up exercise called politics. "I'll need a bit more time for decent reflection about his career , but I did today what I've been doing for 11 [NBA] years: hit a few jumpers, played some D.

"My legacy will be trying to make a contribution with minimal tools. I have no regrets. I'm leaving the game healthy, thankful to have escaped truly serious injury."

The Bullets left the Spectrum with a trunkful of regrets. This is how it went Sunday: they hit eight of 12 shots during one stretch in the second quarter -- and whittled the 76ers' lead all the way to 23 points. And so their season ended, with a whimper and also a Threatt.

The Sixers scored 40 points the first quarter; the woeful Bullets might not have gotten that many during pregame layups.

Many Sixers you never heard of played exceptionally; several prominent Bullets must have had their games roll off the bus somewhere on I-95. Sedale Threatt had as many points as Jeff Malone the first half; Terry Catledge had more than twice as many field goals as three Bullets centers -- and twice as many blocked shots as Manute Bol.

So it went.

"Their younger players [Threatt, Catledge and Greg Stokes] showed a lot of poise," McMillen said. "Grace under pressure, they call it."

The Bullets should be kicking themselves for quite some time about this one. In simple math, their usual cast plus Jeff Ruland for significant minutes figured to be at least equal to the Sixers minus Moses Malone.

Welcome to subtraction by addition. Washington was 11 points behind before Ruland even got into the game, as rookie Catledge took advantage of every bit of Bol's inexperience.

At one end of the court, Bol couldn't handle a Cliff Robinson pass; at the other end seconds later, he was called for goaltending.

After a game of one-block, two-rebound frustration, Bol shrugged and went about packing. Nothing he said after that was as telling, although he did volunteer: "Too big lead."

"The hole was too deep to climb out of," said Jeff Malone, who, limping at times on a tender ankle, contributed 14 shovelfuls to the playoff grave.

That was the number of field goals he missed.

The Bullets were not far behind in rebounding (49-42), but that was mainly because the Sixers made a terrific percentage of their shots. One of the nets may still be smoking from a Charles Barkley dunk.

That McMillen played significant minutes was because some other very tall Bullets were ineffective. In the first and second quarters, when the game was being lost, Bol and Charles Jones had zero points and two rebounds; Ruland had seven points but four turnovers.

"The eight [first-half] minutes were the ones that counted," McMillen said, and he made them count for three field goals and three assists. "The [three] others were garbage."

Ironically, some Sixers usually around for end-of-game garbage time resembled superstars this once. Catledge was Moses-like in scoring (27 points) but not quite so effective on the boards (six).

Threatt was sharp just when the Bullets got the Sixers where they wanted them: with a seemingly insurmountable lead fairly late in the fourth quarter.

With his team ahead by 13, Threatt buried a long jumper and free throw at 5:14 of the fourth period. Later, he combined with Barkley on a sequence that led to a Bobby Jones layup. This was in relief of Maurice Cheeks, who missed the final 5:37 with a sprained ankle.

Two lingering scenes:

Dudley Bradley, hero of Game 1, is very short on a three-point shot late in the third quarter and Barkley slams a dunk seconds later.

Malone scores on a drive and Julius Erving begins a three-point landing (layup and foul shot) in less than four seconds.

So even when the Bullets did something right, the Sixers quickly topped it.

About midway through the second period, it appeared that Bullets Coach Kevin Loughery also didn't want to see any more of his new team. That impression came when official Darell Garretson pointed to the Washington bench and signaled his second technical foul in as many seconds.

It soon developed that the first technical was on another Kevin, McKenna, who had the embarrassing distinction of surrendering a point without stepping on the court.

For whatever anyone chooses to make of it, McMillen's final official basketball act was a defensive rebound 16 seconds from the finish. His last move on offense was a missed tap.

His final performance ended the way most pro seasons do: with a sign. This one was printed in chalk: "Meeting -- Bring road uniforms, rule and playbooks."