Yuck. It described the weather outside, the sparse crowd of 2,413 inside Capital Centre and the Washington Bullets' effort last night against the Seattle SuperSonics, who used their athleticism throughout in a 125-120 victory.

The Bullets (10-17) lost their second game in 24 hours. But this one bore no resemblance to Wednesday night's thrilling loss to Philadelphia. This time, Washington was a step slow all game, especially on defense, as it allowed the SuperSonics (12-13) all manner of open jumpers and layins for the better part of three quarters.

Only after falling behind by 18 in the second half did the Bullets finally try to make a game of it, going to manic half-court traps that closed a 118-100 deficit with 4:40 left to 119-114 with 43.3 seconds to play. And after Seattle couldn't inbound and was called for a five-second violation, the Bullets could at least think about an incredible comeback.

But rookie guard Gary Payton stole Tom Hammonds's inbounds pass and went the length of the floor for the game-saving layin.

"We should all have stayed home," Darrell Walker said. "This one should have been snowed out. We couldn't do too many things right. We've got to take a lot of the blame. They just outhustled us. They played {Wednesday} and had to travel. We played 25 minutes away from home {in Baltimore}. It wasn't an excuse that we were tired."

Reserve Eddie Johnson, acquired from Phoenix earlier this month in the Xavier McDaniel trade, continued his strong play, scoring 22 points to lead Seattle. Shawn Kemp had 20 points and 12 rebounds and generally had his way inside.

Bernard King's 29 points led the Bullets, who had eight players in double figures, including rookie A. J. English with 17. But Washington lost this one at the defensive end, allowing 55 percent shooting by Seattle and getting outrebounded, 48-37.

"We're playing well as a team now," said Kemp, who is averaging just under 18 points a game as a starter at power forward since McDaniel's departure. "They looked a little tired during the first quarter and I think we recognized that and really tried to go after them with some traps and pressuring the ball."

Seattle scored 71 first-half points in taking a 14-point lead. Washington's offense was good enough; its defense wasn't.

"There was an arrogant feeling in the locker room," said Bullets guard Haywoode Workman (15 points), "like we were just going to come in and play and get out. We knew there weren't going to be any fans here. That was the feeling. It was going to be one of those games where we don't have any support."

The Bullets aren't nearly good enough to feel that way. And they quickly fell further behind, with Dale Ellis's conversion of a technical foul called on assistant coach Bill Blair making it 89-70 midway through the third.

From there, Washington juggled the lineup, bringing in Greg Foster, English and Ledell Eackles. Workman joined later for a three-guard setup, and it worked for a time, as the Bullets trapped their way back in it: 103-90 after three quarters.

They got within nine early in the fourth before a 13-4 Seattle run blew open the game. The 6-foot-7 Ellis, who got his second start since being activated Dec. 12, posted up Workman for a couple of jumpers, and Derrick McKey's baseliner gave the SuperSonics that 118-100 lead.

But English got Washington going with a breakaway dunk. Pervis Ellison (seven points) made one of two from the line at 3:43. He then scored off an English miss. Workman stole the ball and fed Eackles for a transition score at 2:29, and it was 118-107.

Seattle's Michael Cage traveled, Foster made two free throws at 2:04 and Kemp made one of two with 55.2 seconds left. Workman hit a layin and English stole the inbounds pass, finding Workman on the left wing for a three-pointer that got Washington within five at 119-114.

"We had to really pick it up," English said, "because we found ourselves standing around on defense. They were cutting to the basket. That's when we went to the traps, to try and up-tempo the game. And it worked for a while. We had a young lineup out there and {Coach Wes Unseld} had us really running."

But Payton's steal finished off thoughts of a miracle.

"We came out flat," said the Bullets' Harvey Grant (16 points). "Everyone could see it. The coaches could see it. You're supposed to win when you're at home, but they took advantage of it."

Bullets Notes:

The club announced before the game that ticket holders who did not show up because of the snowstorm can exchange their tickets for the Jan. 26 game against Dallas.