CHARLOTTE, NOV. 13 -- The Washington Bullets scored enough points to win tonight, though they didn't play particularily well offensively. But their defense helped turn Armon Gilliam into an all-world talent, as the Charlotte forward scored 39 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a 120-105 Hornets victory before a sellout 23,901 at Charlotte Coliseum.

Gilliam was 16 of 24 from the field and seven of eight from the line in 43 minutes. He overpowered the Bullets (2-4) inside, shooting with either hand, hitting short hooks and short jumpers. And Washington's inside people looked helpless trying to stop him.

It offset another sterling night from Bernard King, who was made 12 of 17 shots and scored 34 points, his fifth straight 30-plus game. He raised his NBA-best average to 33 points a game.

For the second straight night Harvey Grant provided more than adequate help with 27 points and nine rebounds. Darrell Walker posted his first triple-double of the season with 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. And rookie Haywoode Workman, playing in his home town, had his best game as a Bullet with 14 points and four assists in 25 minutes in reserve.

Against a third-year team such as Charlotte (3-4), all of that usually is enough. But the Bullets couldn't do anything with Gilliam. They tried Charles Jones. They tried Pervis Ellison. They tried Grant for a trip or two. No matter.

"We didn't do a good job in post defense," Coach Wes Unseld said. "We didn't give ourselves a chance. We sometimes have that breakdown where we don't get anything out of our post defenders. And we got nothing. He was getting so close and low before the double {team} could help. He was just pushing our people around."

The soft-spoken Gilliam tried to insist the Bullets weren't so relatively small defensively. His own coach, Gene Littles, begged to differ.

"Any time he plays guys his own size, he is going to be tough to stop," Littles said. "We match up very well with Washington, and that gives Armon a chance to go one-on-one. Like us, Washington doesn't have a true center either."

Said Gilliam: "It was just one of those nights when I had my rhythm. I was making a lot of shots. There are some nights when in the first quarter I'll play well and in the second quarter my shot doesn't go. . . . We match up pretty well with them."

The Hornets lived in the lane all night, and because they did, they shot 56 percent the first half (scoring 28 points inside) in taking a 64-55 lead. Charlotte's accuracy left Washington's running game stalled and forced the Bullets into a half-court game where Gilliam could use his inside muscle.

King got going in the third period, making all six of his shots and four of five from the line. He put Johnny Newman (16 points) in foul trouble, and equally abused Randolph Keys. But the Bullets never got closer than seven because Charlotte pounded it in to Gilliam at every opportunity.

"Sometimes you're going to have nights like that," Ellison said. "We were trying to double{-team Gilliam} in the post. But he had a good game. It's just a matter of the next time we play him. He had a helluva game."

The Bullets trailed by just 90-82 after three periods. But Dell Curry (16 points) hit three straight jumpers to start the fourth, and instead of closing, Washington fell down by 14. The visitors got within eight at 5:07, when King converted two from the line to make it 104-96. A couple of stops could have made it close.

But Gilliam fed Kenny Gattison for a dunk, followed up his own miss and hit a baseline jumper, and the Bullets never got closer than nine afterward.

Out of necessity Washington double-teams opposing big men almost every night. But because Gilliam got position so deep in the lane, there was no chance for the second man to get there in time.

"When a guy catches the ball that far under the basket, it's too late," Walker said. "If Dell Curry and Rex Chapman are throwing it in from out deep, you've got to respect them. So the guards are pressuring {up front} and by the time the guy throws it in, it's too late."