For the Washington Bullets, the good news was that during a two-minute span of the third period last night they outscored the Houston Rockets, 10-2. The bad news was that the spurt came after the Rockets had opened the quarter by scoring the first 16 points, a run that was more than enough to secure a 111-100 victory at Capital Centre.

The score was 57-40 at halftime when a somber-faced Abe Pollin, the Bullets' owner, attempted to assess what would turn out to be his team's fifth straight loss and 19th in 27 games.

"Obviously I'm upset at the way we're playing. I'm trying to figure out why we're not in sync tonight," said Pollin, who had been on vacation the past week. When asked about the status of Coach Kevin Loughery, Pollin said, "I'm not thinking about changes, I'm trying to figure out what's wrong."

Being out of sync would only begin to describe the Bullets' problems. The loss dropped Washington's home record to 5-9; for the third straight game, the crowd at Capital Centre, 12,769 last night, saw a Western Conference team use the running game as a foundation for doing nearly anything it wanted to.

The final score was deceiving. Houston's third-quarter spree put it up by 33 points. After that, the outcome was a foregone conclusion, despite a relentless Bullets' trap in the final quarter that cut their deficit to something close to respectable.

In a well-balanced offense, all-star center Akeem Olajuwon led the Rockets (15-12) with 18 points. Former Georgetown star Eric (Sleepy) Floyd had 16 as did Purvis Short and Joe Barry Carroll, who was acquired in the mid-December trade for Ralph Sampson.

Forward Bernard King led the Bullets with 26 points. Reserve Mark Alarie added a season-high 18 points -- 14 in the final quarter -- and rookie guard Tyrone Bogues had a season-high 14 assists.

However, most of those impressive numbers came after Floyd began the third period -- innocuously enough -- with a pair of free throws at the 10:56 mark. With 8:22 remaining, the score was 70-40 after a jumper by forward Rodney McCray.

By then, many in the crowd were sitting in stunned silence. They stirred briefly when Moses Malone went to the free throw line for two shots with 6:51 to play. He missed both.

Finally, 33 seconds later, John Williams scored on a driving layup through the lane. The crowd let loose with a sarcastic cheer. Earlier in the game, there was a genuine ovation -- for Redskins quarterback Doug Williams, who took in the contest from a courtside seat.

"It's tough to come into your own building and get booed, it makes you play tight," said Loughery. "But when you get booed, you have to earn it and maybe we have. Actually, I thought we played well in the first half, but we must have missed 15 layups; that led to a lot of their fast breaks."

Williams' basket was the start of the 10-2 spurt. When Alarie followed with a layup on the Bullets' next possession, Houston Coach Bill Fitch took a timeout, ostensibly to stop his opponent's momentum. If that was the case, it was unnecessary. Although Washington outscored the Rockets, 18-12, over the remainder of the period, the game essentially was over by then.

"It was a relatively easy night as we thought we had a lead that was insurmountable," said Fitch.

At one point in the second quarter, the Bullets displayed a new wrinkle, pairing Bogues and Frank Johnson at guard, but that met with as little success as most of the things they have attempted this season. That was one reason Loughery used to explain why he stuck with his usual starting lineup of Terry Catledge, Charles Jones, Moses Malone, Jeff Malone and Johnson.

"We almost started a different lineup, but that's tough to do because I really like Bernard and Bogues where they are. So we went one more time with {the same lineup}; like I said, I thought we played hard the first half, but changing the lineup won't help the team make layups."

When asked if he thought last night's excess misses from in close was something of an aberration, the coach replied, "No, I think we've shown enough consistency to prove that we're capable of missing layups." The remark drew a number of laughs; Loughery was serious.

On a personal level, the loss might have been a bit embarrassing for Moses Malone. In the offseason, the Bullets' center lives in Houston, where he spent more than five seasons playing on some poor teams.

Even so, said Malone after the game, "this is worse than Houston. We had less talent than here, but we played hard. We took our job seriously and we played hard."