A strange game at Capital Centre last night. The Washington Bullets shot 37 percent, yet led by five in the fourth quarter. But the Boston Celtics had one more good run in them and roared past Washington in the end, 102-90, before a sellout crowd of 18,756.

Boston (7-2) scored 23 of the game's final 29 points, after Washington (2-6) took an 84-79 lead with 8:07 remaining. It was all too much like Friday night in Philadelphia as, from there, the Bullets missed eight straight and turned over the ball twice, while the Celtics scored 13 in a row. By the time Larry Bird converted a technical foul shot with 3:15 left, Boston's lead was 92-84.

Kevin McHale scored 22 points, with 12 rebounds, to lead six Celtics in double figures. But it was Reggie Lewis who got untracked late, scoring 10 of his 21 points in the last eight minutes to lead the Celtics' rally. Bird shot just five of 14, for 12 points, but had 13 assists.

"The second half, I really picked it up," Lewis said. "I got my rhythm a little bit. My teammates -- Larry, Kevin, Brian {Shaw}, Kevin {Gamble} -- everyone was going to me. The pick-and-roll was really working."

Bernard King suffered through his first subpar performance of the Bullets' season. He had had six straight 30-plus scoring nights, but this time shot four of 21, for 11 points. Rookie A.J. English led Washington with a career-high 19, and Harvey Grant had 15, though an arctic six of 24 from the floor.

Ledell Eackles still isn't ready after his holdout, and the Bullets got a reprieve from the league office yesterday and now can take their time in activating their shooting guard. NBA Director of Operations Rod Thorn granted an indefinite stay on the suspended list for Eackles, which means the Bullets don't have to cut anyone until they're ready. The league initially had given the club five days to make a move on Eackles when he signed his two-year, $1.4 million contract Monday.

That could have hurried his activation by last night's game, but as it was, for the second straight game the Bullets couldn't get a basket in crunch time. It wasn't as much Boston's defense as tired Washington shooting. The Bullets missed any number of jumpers, and when they did go inside, the bigger Celtics simply clogged their path.

"It's the same story," Bullets Coach Wes Unseld said. "The problem was we didn't score. We only scored 90 points. You're not going to win many games in this league scoring 90. You're not going to win many games scoring 102, unless you hold them to 90."

"The last six minutes, they made everything," guard Darrell Walker (14 points, 13 rebounds) said. "Bird made some passes. I had Reggie Lewis under control for three quarters and he got loose. McHale got some loose balls and they got some easy baskets. We couldn't buy a basket."

Washington scratched back from a 14-point first-half deficit. Pervis Ellison (12 points) started the second half at center over Charles Jones, and started looking for his offense a little bit. Gradually, the Bullets got closer, and went on an 11-4 run to end the third quarter. Walker hit a jumper at the buzzer, and the score was tied at 74.

Ellison had shot 22 percent his previous six games. Last night, he was five of nine for 12 points, with six rebounds in 26 minutes.

"When we came back on the bus from Philly," Ellison said, "I was in my seat asleep when I heard this voice calling me. It was Bernard. He called me to the back of the bus and basically . . . he was stressing the fact that he's scoring 33 points a game, and he wants to win ballgames. He stressed the fact that I need to be more involved on the offensive end."

English put Washington up early in the fourth, and when Haywoode Workman picked Shaw's pocket and converted a three-point play at the 8:07 mark, the Bullets led by five, with King getting a good long rest on the bench.

"They got a lot of second opportunities to score," said Bird of Washington's 31-10 advantage in second-chance points. "And the second shot is a high-percentage shot. There were a lot of loose balls and we didn't take care of it as well as we could take care of it."

But Lewis then went to work. He hit a jumper, a breakaway layin and went across the lane for a basket with five minutes left, giving Boston the lead for good. Bird stole the ball from King and Lewis scored on the baseline for an 87-84 Celtics lead.

English missed a jumper and McHale grabbed a loose ball in the lane for an easy basket.. Washington called time, but never got closer than seven.

"When you play 82 games, you're going to have games like this," Grant said. "That's what I'll chalk this up to. It was there, but it just didn't fall."