INDIANAPOLIS, DEC. 2 -- There probably will be many nights and many NBA teams that the Washington Bullets will beat playing the way they did most of this evening. But, this evening against the Indiana Pacers wasn't one of them. A late surge by Indiana and an inability to score in the closing moments consigned the Bullets to a 108-102 loss at Market Square Arena.

A run of 12 straight points midway through the fourth quarter put Washington on the verge of winning its third straight game. Instead, the Bullets' record dropped to 4-9 entering Thursday night's home game against the Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta, which learned tonight a sprained toe -- stepped on by Boston's Greg Kite -- will keep its star Dominique Wilkins from playing at Capital Centre, may not recognize its opponent: the Bullets have surely come a long way from the team that dropped a season-opening 114-97 decision to the Hawks on Nov. 6. That was their sixth straight loss to Atlanta, and they have to deal with a similar string of frustration with Indiana. Tonight's loss was the Bullets' 10th in their last 13 games against the Pacers, including the last seven games here.

"We have tough matchups against them at every position," Washington Coach Kevin Loughery said of the Pacers. "Teams that shoot the ball extremely well at every position will give us trouble."

The main troublemakers tonight were forwards Wayman Tisdale and Chuck Person. Tisdale scored 19 of his 23 points in the opening half, the other four in the final 2:30. Person, last season's rookie of the year, had 20. The Bullets were led by Moses Malone's 21 points and 12 rebounds.

His was one of a number of strong Bullets performances. Jeff Malone had 20 points and eight rebounds and Manute Bol and Terry Catledge came off the bench to combine for 18 points, 18 rebounds, five blocked shots and three steals. Bol even managed his first assist of the season. Frank Johnson started at point guard, scoring nine points with five assists in place of rookie Tyrone Bogues, who never saw action.

"We did play hard but when we needed the big basket we weren't executing or getting the shot up," said Jeff Malone. "We did it in the Clippers game {a 101-96 victory a week ago}, but other than that we haven't been hitting it."

Forcing the Pacers into eight straight misses, the Bullets trimmed a 91-76 deficit to 91-88 with 4:41 left when Bol scored on an offensive rebound.

On the Pacers' subsequent possession, Bol blocked a shot by Person but guard Vern Fleming recovered the ball and scored just before the 24-second clock expired. It was one of at least four such buzzer-beaters for Indiana.

"That's the kind of game it was," sighed Loughery. "We'd play super defense and they'd hit a fadeaway. They didn't get a lot of good shots in the second half."

But the Bullets were having trouble hitting any kind of shot. That included free throws, of which they missed 23 of 36. Four times Washington players went none for two on two-shot fouls -- the last coming with 3:25 remaining when Moses Malone could have brought the Bullets back to within three.

Instead, the misses led to a jumper by Indiana center Steve Stipanovich to put his team ahead by 95-88. Moses Malone came back with two from the line and Washington had a chance to get even closer with just under 2:30 to play when Bol rebounded a missed shot. However, guard Reggie Miller knocked the ball out of Bol's hand and it was retrieved by Tisdale, who was fouled.

He hit one of two from the line and the Pacers would go on to score six of the next seven points before Moses Malone finally converted an offensive rebound with 1:12 to play.

"We just didn't score the ball," said Loughery. "In the first half, we trapped nine out of 11 times and they didn't score, but we couldn't either. We did better in the second half but we still shot poorly. We missed foul shots, we had opportunities, but we have to convert them."

Celtics 130, Nets 99:

In Boston, Larry Bird scored 34 points and Kevin McHale 23 in their first start together this season. With six free throws, Bird has 59 in a row, breaking the Celtics mark of 55 by Bill Sharman and one shy of second best in NBA history to Rick Barry. The record: 78, Calvin Murphy.

Bulls 105, Jazz 101:

Michael Jordan scored 47 points as Chicago won in Salt Lake City to build the NBA's best road record to 8-1.

Pistons 115, Bucks 105:

Detroit, in the Pontiac Silverdome, weathered a career-high 33 points by Milwaukee's Randy Breuer.

Trail Blazers 117, Lakers 104:

Jerome Kersey scored a career-high 32 points and Clyde Drexler 28 to power Portland to its seventh straight victory, first in 20 games at the Forum since April 1983.

Clippers 88, 76ers 85:

It was Los Angeles' first win over Philadelphia in 15 games dating to Feb. 21, 1980. For the 76ers, Mark McNamara had career highs of 17 points and 22 rebounds.

Cavaliers 104, Sonics 102:

Host Cleveland withstood a fourth-quarter rally by Seattle.

Spurs 97, Rockets 93:

In San Antonio, David Greenwood scored his only two baskets in the final 1:40 against Houston.

Nuggets 147, Kings 120:

Denver, at home, easily withstood Reggie Theus' 35 points.