Earlier this month, when Bernard King was going much better than his teammates, the talk was of the game and the simplicity of his attack.

"You do something until someone stops it," he said then. "Until they show you they can stop what you're doing, why change it? When I was in New York the coaching staff used to kid me. They'd say 'when are we going to see a new move from you?' Because I would do the same thing every night. My answer was, 'Until someone stops it, why change?' I was primarily a low-post player, because that's what I did best.

"There are some guys who do something very well. But they're bored by it so they want to try something different. And it doesn't work as effectively but they have fun just doing it. I'm just the reverse. I have fun doing something that I know works time and time again."

He had his game working in the Bullets' 161-133 victory Saturday night, using nothing complex, but the same thing over and over.

He stepped out for jumpers. He released early and filled the passing lanes for transition baskets. And he drew fouls and got to the foul line.

All that added up to a stunning 52 points, a remarkable feat even against the likes of the Denver Nuggets. The performance propelled him back to the NBA scoring lead at 30.2 points per game.

In his last seven games he's averaging 34.9 points on .543 (100 of 184) shooting from the floor. And Washington has climbed within 1 1/2 games of third place in the Atlantic, which right now is the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"My first year or my second year, it would have amazed me," forward Harvey Grant said. "But if he scores 60, it wouldn't amaze me. You've come to learn to expect that from that type of guy and that type of person."

"This doesn't come around every night," King said in the aftermath of his biggest scoring night in more than five years. "When it comes around, enjoy it."

Reaching 50 points again was one of the last goals King had since coming back from his 1985 knee injury. He's returned to be a dangerous scorer. He's added a perimeter game to his repertoire. He's played every game of a season.

The last, of course, is making the all-star team. His chances will be left up to the NBA coaches who will vote on the alternates to the team, because he will not be voted in by fans. He is currently last among Eastern Conference forwards in votes. Ledell Eackles has more votes at guard than King does at forward.

But King's performance Saturday, as he said, did not hurt. The Nuggets allowed all manner of breakaways, and Darrell Walker gave up baskets on at least three occasions to give King the ball. But that happened in the first quarter.

"I never thought I would see it again," Walker said. "I didn't know what to do, I was so happy. I can vividly remember him go down in cold Kemper Arena {March 23, 1985} in Kansas City and blocking Reggie Theus's shot and coming down and tearing his knee up. I can remember that play to right now. He deserved to score. I would have given him all the shots I had to score 50."

Washington brought King in and out on three separate occasions in the fourth to get his 50-plus, which broke Moses Malone's Capital Centre record for most points by a Bullet. He finished with the third-highest total in franchise history, behind Phil Chenier's 53 in 1972 and Earl Monroe's 56 in 1968.

"We wanted him to get it," Grant said. "I think he wanted it too. Everybody kept chanting 'Bernard, we want Bernard.' Then he went back out there and it was all over."

Washington left Eackles in in the fourth quarter to run the point guard position. In the recent past that may have been to improve his wind, but Eackles looks as if he's finally working his way into shape.

With John Williams set to come back soon, the Bullets might have the true group they anticipated starting the season with together in the next three weeks. Now they have four days off before playing Charlotte, and then Minnesota, before starting a tough January stretch that includes another west coast trip and games with Boston and Milwaukee.

It gives King a few days to muse on his accomplishment. He had 46 points against Cleveland just last week, but came out late in the fourth quarter instead of trying for the record. He said then that the time just wasn't right, that it wouldn't be fair to the Cavaliers.

Saturday?

"I said the time would come again," he said. "I didn't realize it would happen so soon, but I felt the time would come again. It arrived pretty quickly. I'm happy that it's over with."