RICHFIELD, OHIO, DEC. 22 -- The Washington Bullets' bench was clamoring for it. Coach Wes Unseld thought it was worth asking. So he called time out with two minutes left in the Bullets' 109-89 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers and asked Bernard King if he wanted to go for 50.

As in points.

King, who already had 46 points, answered Unseld by walking to the bench. He made 20 of 30 shots, torching Chucky Brown, Craig Ehlo and Larry Nance in succession. He also had six rebounds and six assists for the Bullets (10-15), who have won three in a row and two straight on the road.

"The other guys on the bench were saying, 'Let him get 50,' " Unseld said. "But he's more into winning. But I've known that. Also, my concern was he'd get in there and get a freak injury."

King said he wasn't keeping track of points: "Other times when I got 50 points it always happened in the flow of the game, and it was a close game. I've never intentionally tried to score points. And the game was over. Why do it? I just thought it would be unfair to Cleveland."

This is amazing talk, but King was amazing. He had 28 in the first half, and when Cleveland (11-16) concentrated on him at the start the second half, Harvey Grant (24 points, nine rebounds) and Ledell Eackles (14 points) got going offensively.

They outrebounded the Cavaliers 44-39, led by Pervis Ellison, who returned after a one-game suspension for fighting Indiana's Rik Smits Wednesday. Tonight Ellison had 11 rebounds and five blocked shots in 23 minutes.

The Bullets have been guilty many times this season of standing around and watching King work. Tonight, however, Washington made 49 of 89 shots, and when in control except for a couple of Cavaliers flurries in the second half.

"We knew they were going to jump on him," Grant said. "We said to ourselves that other guys have to pick up the slack. And we came out and we did that in the second half."

Cleveland looks a lot like the Bullets did at the start of the season. The Cavaliers are missing point guard Mark Price (out for the season with ligament damage in his left knee), forward John "Hot Rod" Williams (sprained left foot) and swingman Winston Bennett (lower back strain).

They just can't score. And it killed them after they got within 85-79 early in the fourth quarter. Washington finally cooled off, missing five straight shots. But the Cavaliers got only one basket in more than five minutes, while the Bullets went on a 12-2 run to get their fourth road victory.

King put Washington ahead to stay late in the first quarter, and never got stopped. He forced perhaps two shots all night, and didn't come out in the first half until less than two minutes remained.

"It was a big win for us against the Knicks {Friday} and I wanted to get the ballclub going early," he said. "We haven't had that much success on the road and I felt if I could get us going early and then balance things off and get more guys involved that we'd have a better chance of winning. But I was shooting the ball well."

"He was on fire," guard Darrell Walker said. "I told {assistant coach} Jeff Bzdelik in the first quarter: 'He isn't going to let us lose tonight. He's going to beat them all by himself.'

"He was aggressive and they didn't have nobody to stop him. Not really. And he was relentless."

The Cavaliers said they could see no difference between the way King is playing now and the way he played when he was the NBA's scoring leader six years ago with the Knicks.

"He's at his peak right now," forward Larry Nance said. "I've never seen Bernard any better. I played against him when he was younger and I'm playing against him now, and he's the same guy."

The Bullets led 59-47 at halftime, and it was 83-72 after three quarters as Grant scored 12 points. But Cleveland couldn't get over the hump, mainly because their patchwork backcourt made 12 of 36 shots. Only Brad Daugherty (20 points) and Nance (16 points) scored consistently.

And whenever they did, King had the answer.

"When he came off of screens we were back," Cleveland Coach Lenny Wilkens said. "If you step up you can step out and cover. We didn't do it and we didn't help.

"Once you let a player like him get off, all he thinks about is going to the hoop. And he is good at it."