INGLEWOOD, CALIF., DEC. 9 -- The Washington Bullets never turned the corner against the Los Angeles Lakers tonight. They were close almost all game but never got a leg up, and lost a 106-99 decision before 15,809 at the Forum.

Bernard King was marvelous for the Bullets, scoring 28 of his game-high 40 points in the second half. Washington (6-13) stayed on the fringe of competing the whole night but never came up court with a chance to tie in the second half.

James Worthy led a balanced attack for Los Angeles (11-6) with 20 points. Magic Johnson scored 19, Byron Scott and Vlade Divac 18 each and Terry Teagle 17.

Harvey Grant, who has blossomed on this long road trip, again was a solid supporter for Washington with 25 points and 12 rebounds. And Darrell Walker established a career high in rebounds with 17, to go with 10 points and six assists.

"Our guys played hard," said Bullets Coach Wes Unseld. "The only period that really hurt us was the end of the first and beginning of the second quarter, when we dropped down 13, 15 points. That's what came back to haunt us."

The Bullets got within two late in the third quarter, but the Lakers kept them at arms' length throughout the fourth, with Teagle scoring nine points.

Washington got off to its usual slow start, missing five of its first seven shots. But the Lakers haven't been scoring in bunches either, so the Bullets led 15-12 with four minutes left in the first period after King hit a baseline jumper.

The Lakers then went on an 11-2 run in the next three minutes. Divac, who hurt Washington here last season, led the rush with four points, an assist and three offensive rebounds, part of his nine total rebounds in the quarter.

The Bullets' offense improved in the second quarter. They scored on six of their first nine possessions to stay within seven. Six straight from the Lakers made it 45-32 midway through the quarter, but the Bullets scored six of the next eight. A basket by Grant and free throws by Haywoode Workman and Ledell Eackles kept Washington within 47-38 with 5:14 left in the half.

The Bullets also went to a half-court trap, which threw Los Angeles a bit out of kilter offensively. Yet the closest they could get was 49-41 on a Pervis Ellison free throw at the 3:48 mark.

From there, Los Angeles scored nine of the next 12 points, and Divac was again in the middle of it with a basket and a block of King. Scott scored three points, and Johnson's jumper with a minute left gave Los Angeles a 58-44 cushion.

"They're a very experienced basketball team," said King, "and when we double-teamed, they were able to hit the open man for a layup or force us to foul down there. And on a number of occasions they got the offensive rebounds and finally got a putback in."

King and Walker sandwiched baskets around a Sam Perkins layin before the half ended, and the Bullets were down 60-48 at intermission. King's 12 points led Washington; Walker had nine rebounds. Johnson's 13 points and six assists led the Lakers.

King and Grant carried the Bullets in the third quarter, combining for all but two of Washington's 26 points. After the Lakers took a 65-50 lead early in the quarter, the Bullets scored 12 of the next 18 points.

Grant had eight of the 12, hitting three jumpers, then scoring in transition to cut the deficit to 71-62. Johnson scored for Los Angeles but the Bullets went on another burst, scoring nine in a row, all by King.

He hit baseline. He hit two free throws. He hit in transition on a flashing drive to the hoop. And he drove to the right on A.C. Green for a basket and foul with 1:43 left in the third, bringing Washington to 73-71.

Worthy scored twice for the Lakers before the quarter ended to slow Washington's momentum, and though King wound up with 14 points in the period, Los Angeles led after three, 79-74.

"Even though they came back strong in the third quarter," Worthy said, "we got together and sustained good defense in the fourth quarter. We finally started executing a little better down the stretch."

Washington stayed with its starters to begin the fourth, and King's 30th point kept the Bullets within 87-81 four minutes in. But the Lakers scored five in a row while the Bullets went scoreless on four possessions. Divac's transition layin with 5 1/2 minutes left restored Los Angeles' lead to 94-81.