These days, nothing comes easily for the Washington Bullets. If opponents aren't making whirling, no-look shots at the buzzer, Washington players are falling prey to a variety of mental and physical lapses.

As a result, five of the team's last six games have been of the heart-stopping variety, with the Bullets losing four of them. Last night at Capital Centre, the Bullets were rudely introduced to a novel way of losing a close game in falling, 107-106, to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The loss ended an eight-game home court win streak for Washington (17-25). Guard Jeff Malone led the team with 27 points, and Moses Malone added 23 with 13 rebounds. Cleveland (23-21) was led by John (Hot Rod) Williams' 23 points. All-star center Brad Daugherty had a triple double of 20 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

Down, 106-102, with about two minutes to play, it appeared the Bullets were on the verge of rallying and sneaking away with a victory. Jeff Malone tipped in a John Williams miss with 1:35 left and Moses Malone did the same when Frank Johnson misfired 57 seconds later to tie the score at 106.

After a timeout, Cleveland went to guard Mark Price, who beat the Bullets on a last-second driving shot at Capital Centre Dec. 22. This time, though, under strong defensive pressure from Johnson, the second-year guard missed a jumper, with Bernard King taking the rebound away from Daugherty.

With 14 seconds to play, Washington was set to inbound from midcourt following a timeout. But before King could pass to Johnson, referee Ronnie Nunn whistled the Bullets' John Williams for an offensive foul.

Already upset, Washington was just seconds away from further aggravation. The Cavaliers spread the floor for Price, who was once again pressured by Johnson. This time, however, referee Hugh Evans called Johnson for a foul, sending Price to the line. A 90 percent free throw shooter entering the game, Price missed the first attempt but made the second.

Out of timeouts, the Bullets rushed up the floor. Tyrone Bogues reached the lane, but his shot was blocked by Cleveland's Craig Ehlo at the buzzer.

Naturally, the unorthodox finish left the home team stunned.

"It seemed like {the referee} he had his mind made up before the ball even came in that he was going to call something against us," the Bullets' Williams said. "I've never experienced anything like that."

Cleveland Coach Lenny Wilkens said the offensive foul was a correct call.

"At that part of the game, a player shouldn't be moving, but it was clear that Williams hipped our player," he said. "When you're that close to half court and out in the open, you have to be sure. If you're not, you can call a timeout or bring someone else to the ball."

Now past the season's halfway point, there's little doubt that if Washington makes the playoffs, it should be competitive in them. Such is the nature of the NBA's Eastern Conference, where just 4 1/2 games separate the fifth-place team (Milwaukee) from the ninth (Washington).

The operative word, however, is if. Although the game's finish was bizarre to say the least, Washington Coach Wes Unseld admitted that the game "shouldn't have come down to that."

The Bullets had just 15 turnovers for the game but that doesn't include miscues like a technical foul for an illegal defense in the final 3:07 or the 12 offensive rebounds grabbed by the Cavaliers.

The Cavaliers began by hitting 17 of their first 20 shots, building a 35-19 lead.

Although they rarely looked smooth, the Bullets managed to overcome the torrid start and looked as if they were going to overcome their fourth-quarter deficit as well.

That is, until the fateful finish.

"It's frustrating to come back like that and have calls like that happen in the final seconds," said the Bullets' John Williams.

Celtics 118, Pacers 103: In Boston, Kevin McHale scored 27 points and Larry Bird and Danny Ainge had 21 each as the Celtics earned their 23rd consecutive home victory over the Pacers.

76ers 96, Warriors 84: In Philadelphia, Charles Barkley scored 21 points and the 76ers never trailed in handing Golden State its 21st road loss in 22 games.

Barkley, returning after missing two games with a sprained ankle, helped the 76ers win for only the second time in the last eight games.

Nuggets 115, Mavericks 105: In Denver, Michael Adams made five three-point shots and scored 21 points to help hand Dallas its third straight defeat.

Alex English had 26 points and former Maverick Jay Vincent added 20 as the Nuggets improved to 17-3 at home. Mark Aguirre scored 27 points for Dallas. Roy Tarpley had 21 points and 14 rebounds and Sam Perkins added 18 points.

Jazz 123, Kings 91: In Salt Lake City, Rickey Green scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half and Karl Malone finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds as Utah won its third straight. Thurl Bailey added 22 points for the Jazz.