INGLEWOOD, CALIF., FEB. 24 -- Forward Bernard King left the Washington Bullets tonight and flew to Chicago to have his doctor examine his sore back.

He will miss the game in Sacramento Thursday night, when the Bullets hope to regroup and salvage this western trip.

He had spent the day resting at the team's hotel, taking aspirin and using heat on his sore lower back. Most players use anti-inflammatory drugs, too, but they've upset his stomach in the past.

Until tonight, he tried to shrug off the pain as normal to a long NBA season. The team had listed him as questionable for Thursday's game. But now, what he learns from his doctor will determine when he rejoins the team.

Teammate Darrell Walker, a guard, severely sprained his right ankle in December. Since then, he's played so little that he has started to call himself the team's "graduate assistant" to coaches Wes Unseld and Bill Blair.

However, even with such close proximity to the court, Walker can't get a feel for what's gone wrong with the team.

"I don't know if it's anything specific," he said. "We've been inconsistent all year. Sometimes we play great. Sometimes we've got nothing. We don't play night in and night out; we just don't. If we could be consistent we probably would have won seven or eight more games."

Eight more victories would make the Bullets 27-24 and attempting to fine-tune for the NBA playoffs. In reality, though, they are 19-32 after Tuesday night's 111-100 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. King wasn't able to play in that game.

The Kings are 16-36 and last in the Midwest Division, and this game potentially represents the first leg of Washington's last stand.

The Bullets are 1-4 on their eight-game western swing. Victories over Sacramento, Phoenix and Golden State -- with a combined record of 46-106 entering play tonight -- would salvage the trip and keep the Bullets' postseason hopes alive. Losses in two of the three contests probably would be the first step in playing out the string in the team's final 28 games.

Unseld doesn't agree with that assessment, saying he's not afraid of his players marking time until the season ends because, "if I sense it, they won't play at all.

"You get paid to play and give your best effort," he said. "There will be -- and have been -- plenty of nights when your best effort isn't good enough. You try and come up with ways of trying to keep making the players play hard, but it comes down to individual pride, and we have some guys with that."

Apparently any change in attitude will have to come from among the present players. The NBA's trading deadline is Thursday and it appears that the Bullets won't make a trade.

"If you're asking me that at 2 o'clock on the 24th, then right now I don't think anything will happen," Unseld said. "Unless something happens that I'm not aware of."

The Phoenix Suns, who have dominated the trade-rumor market by shopping talented forward Larry Nance, and today traded center James Edwards to Detroit for Pistons rookie center Ron Moore, reportedly engaged in unfruitful conversation with the Bullets.

According to sources from both teams, Nance and perhaps guard Jay Humphries were offered but the return price would have been guard Jeff Malone and forward John Williams, with whom Washington is especially reluctant to part.

A Washington counterproposal, reportedly forward Terry Catledge and Malone, was unacceptable to Phoenix and the Pacific Division team looked elsewhere.

"I'd heard some rumors and talked with {Bullets' General Manager} Bob {Ferry} about it but Bob talks with everyone," Unseld said. "There was nothing substantial in what I'd heard."

A midseason trade would be relatively new for the Bullets, who, for the past few seasons, have made a number of substantial changes either before the college draft or during the preseason.

According to some players, the constant shuffling of talent has caught up with the team and contributed to its current malaise.

"Sometimes I think we just don't have a good mix at all," said one who did not wish to have his name used. "The players we have don't really complement one another."

That has become painfully obvious during Washington's stretch of 10 losses in its last 13 games. Now 2-8 this month, the Bullets have yet to score 110 points in any game of the current trip.

Both the Lakers game and a 100-87 loss to the Denver Nuggets were characterized by a lack of offensive execution in the second half. That's where the odd mixture of players comes into play. Apart from the likes of the very complementary Charles Jones and Williams, who has an extremely pure feel for the game, the Washington players are specialists, whose skills don't always mesh.

For most of his 12 NBA seasons, Moses Malone's game has been pounding the backboards and banging in the low post. That hasn't lent itself to passing under duress from double-teams or to set picks in the high post.

When the center talked this season of Unseld, and his predecessor, Kevin Loughery, "trying to change his game," Malone was addressing those types of points.

Similarly, King has long been a scorer who also hasn't had to worry as much about defense and rebounding.

Celtics 113, Trail Blazers 112:

Larry Bird scored 16 of his 44 points in the fourth quarter, rallying the Celtics to victory in Boston.

The Celtics have beaten the Trail Blazers twice in six nights and are 21-3 at home this season.

Playing without forward Kevin McHale, who had a sore left knee, the Celtics overcame a 100-88 deficit with eight minutes to play.

Bird started a 25-12 spurt with a three-point play, and with 1:42 remaining scored on a short jumper to put the Celtics in front by a point. It was the first time they had led since early in the second period.

After Terry Porter scored to give the lead back to Portland, the Celtics' Dennis Johnson was fouled on a drive up the middle. He made both foul shots to provide the winning margin.

Bucks 97, Pacers 94:

In Indianapolis, Jack Sikma's 27 points included a tie-breaking layup with 1:40 left.

He shot nine for 11 from the field and nine for nine from the foul line.

The game was tied, 89-89, when Sikma scored. Terry Cummings followed with another layup to make it 93-89.

Spurs 123, 76ers 121:

In San Antonio, rookie Greg Anderson won the game in San Antonio by getting a rebound and putting it back up with 20 seconds to play in overtime.

The 76ers have lost 16 straight road games.

Mavericks 93, Cavaliers 89:

Sam Perkins scored on a base-line drive with 27 seconds to play in Dallas, enabling the Mavericks to win their sixth straight.

Cleveland's John Williams was called for traveling with nine seconds to go, then Brad Davis' two foul shots made it 92-89 with eight seconds left. Ron Harper of the Cavaliers missed a three-point shot with two seconds left.

Rolando Blackman of the Mavericks ended with 26 points, surpassing 10,000 career points with 10:22 left in the game.

Nuggets 123, Jazz 120:

Alex English and Blair Rassmussen each scored 35 points in the victory in Salt Lake City.

Pistons 107, Warriors 93:

Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer led Detroit on an early 12-0 scoring spurt in Oakland, and the Pistons moved into first place in the NBA's Central Division.

The Pistons, 8-2 since the All-Star break, edged ahead of Atlanta in their division race.