Were this late April or early May, the Washington Bullets' 140-139 double overtime loss to the Boston Celtics Saturday night at Capital Centre would have been the subject of days' worth of media scrutiny and weeks' worth of playground imitation.

"If it had been a playoff-type game," Bullets Coach Kevin Loughery said yesterday, "people would talk about it for a long time."

People may talk about it for a long time, anyway.

For those who might want to say they were among the sellout crowd of 18,643, these are the particulars:

Larry Bird played 53 of the game's 58 minutes, scored 47 points on 19-of-29 field-goal shooting, grabbed eight rebounds and made seven assists. His 23-footer from the right wing as time expired gave Boston the win.

He also sank a three-point goal from beyond the top of the key with four seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game; his three-point attempt while falling into the scorer's table as time expired in the first overtime had nearly won it (the shot hit the back of the rim and bounced out). Oh yes, he also made two free throws with four seconds left in the first overtime to give the Celtics a 131-129 lead that was erased when one of Washington's recent acquisitions, ex-Denver Nuggets guard Darrell Walker, sank a 19-footer to tie it with one second left.

"Bird was just unbelievable," Loughery said.

Bird's 47 points are the most any Celtics player has ever scored against the Bullets in a regular season game. After an offseason during which he retooled his body with three-hour workouts five or six days a week, Bird seems poised for a special season.

"He's thinner than he was last season, but he's bigger in his arms and upper body," said Bullets forward Charles Jones, who had the misfortune of having to cover Bird on the game-ending sequence, an inbound play from halfcourt. "He's shooting the ball better than I've seen him shoot in years. He's making shots you wouldn't want most guys to take, and it's not like he's lucking them in -- they're normal shots for him . . .

"On that last play I just tried to deny him the ball. They made a pretty good inbound pass and once he got it, there wasn't much I could do except hope his shot wouldn't go in."

The Celtics' Fred Roberts, Darren Daye, Robert Parish and Mark Acres know the feeling. Parish fouled out after 41 minutes with Moses Malone. And Acres, who replaced him, was burned on the play on which Malone gave the Bullets a 139-138 lead. With Acres attempting to overplay him, Malone took an inbound pass, lumbered toward the lane and scored on a running move usually reserved for Bullets guard Jeff Malone.

Moses Malone finished the game with 32 points and 13 rebounds (eight offensive), helping the Bullets to outrebound the Celtics, 47-44, overall and 20-14 on the offensive boards.

"Moses is Moses," Celtics Coach K.C. Jones said. "He's something else."

During the fourth quarter and the overtimes Saturday night, so was Bernard King.

He scored eight points during the final 5:30 of regulation as the Bullets completed an eight-point comeback. He added four more in the first overtime before fouling out in the second. The 6-foot-7 King, who totaled 25 points, scored all 12 of those late-game points by playing straightforward, post'em-up-on-the-block basketball against the 6-10 Roberts and then the 6-8 Daye, who entered the game after King had scored two layups and a two-footer against Roberts during a three-minute stretch of the fourth quarter.

None of this might have happened had 6-10 forward Kevin McHale or 6-11 center Bill Walton not been injured and unable to play, but as Loughery said, "I've seen Bernard score 50 against Boston when they had McHale."

"Bernard's always been a go-to guy when he's been healthy," Loughery said. "He played poorly against Atlanta {three of 12 for nine points}, so it was good to see him bounce back like that."

"They did a great thing getting King," Jones said. "He instills enthusiasm in that team. They now have a great center in Moses, a great forward in Bernard and a great guard in Jeff Malone. With {forward Terry} Catledge and {swing man John} Williams and the rest of them, they can really play. They have a tough team."

Loughery cautioned that the season is still early and, because the Bullets have four players who have been in camp for less than 10 days (King, Walker, Mark Alarie and Jones, a free agent who re-signed only last week), they might be an up-and-down team for a while. "I would like to be starting training camp with this team," he said. Box score, Page C13

Lakers 101, Rockets 92:

Magic Johnson and Byron Scott each scored 23 points and A.C. Green grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds to lead Los Angeles past Houston in Inglewood, Calif.

Akeem Olajuwon led Houston with 26 points and Ralph Sampson had 16, but the Rockets were outrebounded, 54-35, by the Lakers, who have beaten Houston in their last seven meetings at The Forum.