EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., NOV. 12 -- Right now the leading scorer in the National Basketball Association resides in Washington, a 33-year-old combination of grit and grace and know-how. He is Bernard King, and tonight he was the only reason the Washington Bullets were able to take a 97-92 victory over the New Jersey Nets before an announced 6,103 at Brendan Byrne Arena.

In a game otherwise best forgotten -- Washington shot .404 for the game, New Jersey shot .344. Both teams missed untold layins and short jumpers.

King scored 38 points, 26 in the second half, including 19 in the third quarter when he equaled the output of the truly wretched Nets (1-5).

Still, the Bullets (2-3) got a couple of big plays from others in the last minute when they threatened to blow a nine-point lead.

Harvey Grant (season-high 21 points, 10 rebounds) tipped in a King miss with 37 seconds left to give Washington a 94-90 lead. At the other end, Pervis Ellison came up with consecutive blocks of Derrick Coleman and Derrick Gervin, giving the Bullets the needed breathing room.

After a two-of-eight start, King made 13 of his last 22 from the floor, and is averaging 32.8 points in five games. It's true that King's average will go down when Ledell Eackles, signed today, becomes part of the offense. But by balancing the floor, it could open more things up. Who knows? Right now, one could only marvel at what King is accomplishing.

"You know me," King said. "I'm not all that concerned with how many points I score. If that's what it takes, that's what it takes. That's not something I look to do. I look at every game differently. In the first half I wasn't shooting the ball as well as I'd like to so I looked at my teammates a bit more. {Since} I felt we're in the game, there's no sense in my trying to put up shots I wasn't making. Hopefully, {I could} wait until the second half."

"Right now," said Darrell Walker {eight points, game-high 14 rebounds}, "I don't know if anybody can stop him. He's on a roll. He's got the attitude that he's not going to be denied. It's something to see."

That it was. King made his first eight shots to begin the third quarter. Washington shot .364 from the floor in the first half, though it managed to be tied at 53 at the half.

In the third quarter, the Nets shot seven of 25 (28 percent) from the floor and the Bullets took an 81-72 lead.

The teams scored four points each in the first five minutes of the fourth quarter. The only reason New Jersey, which shot 12 of 53 in the second half (.226), stuck around was that it managed to get to the line 12 times in the fourth quarter.

Washington led 92-83 with 2:33 left after King came across the lane for two more. But the Nets got to the foul line in each of their next four possessions and made seven of eight free throws, while Washington went scoreless. When Coleman (16 points, 12 rebounds) hit two with 1:05 left, the Bullets' lead was down to 92-90.

Washington then isolated King on Chris Morris. King drove right and put up a runner as Coleman provided weakside defensive help. The shot hit the front of the rim, but the 6-foot-8 Grant managed to jump over 7-1 Sam Bowie and flick the ball in with his right hand with 36.4 seconds left.

"They tried to help on him and when you do that you leave yourself open," Grant said. "Me and Sam were trying to fight for position and it seemed I left my feet before he did."

At the other end, New Jersey's Gervin drove left on Walker and tried a baseline jumper. It caromed off to Coleman, but Ellison stuffed him clean. Gervin came from behind and picked up the loose ball, but Ellison rejected him, too, and King grabbed the ball. Charles Jones then made one of two from the line with 17 seconds left.

So, for the first time in a while, things are a little upbeat. Eackles will be back in some form by the weekend. And for one night at least, no one else is better in this league at putting the ball in the basket.

"We'll go to the well until it runs dry," Bullets Coach Wes Unseld said. "Like I've got some other choice." BULLETS (97)

Min FG FT O-T A PF Pts King 37 15-30 8-11 2-6 6 1 38 Grant 42 8-17 5-5 3-10 1 1 21 Jones 29 0-1 1-2 1-5 2

WASHINGTON -- Percentages: FG .404, FT .778; Three-point goals: 0-0, .000; Team rebounds: 11; Blocked shots

NEW JERSEY -- Percentages: FG .344, FT .828; Three-point goals: 2-9, .222 (Morris 2-3, Bowie 0-1, Theus 0-1

A: 6,103. T: 2:07.

Officials: Joe Forte, Ron Olesiak, George Toliver.