CHICAGO, FEB. 19 -- Ledell Eackles came to play. Pervis Ellison played like a first-round pick. A.J. English picked up the pace at point guard to his highest level yet. And Bernard King leveled himself after a subpar first half.

But the Washington Bullets lost, 118-113, to the Chicago Bulls before 17,894 at Chicago Stadium. That wasn't the point tonight. The Bullets finally put five guys on the floor who looked like they belonged together.

It was much the same five who toiled in Texas last week. Tonight they sparkled. Eackles had a season-high 32 points. English was outstanding in his second consecutive 48-minute performance, with 18 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds. Ellison had 14 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocked shots in 36 minutes.

And King scored 25 of his 29 points in the second half, after shooting two for 12 in the first.

But Washington (22-31) still didn't have enough to overcome Chicago (37-14), which won its seventh straight overall and 16th in a row at home. Michael Jordan went for 40 points and 12 rebounds. Scottie Pippen arose in the second half to score 16, and had 13 rebounds. And the Bulls outrebounded Washington, 50-37.

"We got in a position to be there down the stretch," Ellison said, "and that's what you have to do with a talented team like Chicago. They rose to the occasion. They answered us basket for basket, because Ledell was hot."

"They played exceptionally well, both of them," Coach Wes Unseld said of his young backcourt. "With A.J. controlling things out there and Ledell, he had a tough job out there, and he responded on the offensive end tremendously."

The Bullets cut an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to 111-108 with 1:35 remaining on a King jumper. If Washington could have made one more stop and then scored, the game would have become very interesting.

But the Bulls got a basket from Pippen, and free throws from Jordan with 57.6 seconds remaining, to stay at arm's length.

In all his years of skywalking and jamming, Jordan had never made 40 points against the Bullets. They were the last of 26 opponents to succumb to his will.

"Without Darrell Walker, I didn't have to worry about him being all over me," Jordan said. "The opportunities presented themselves a lot easier today. With {Walker, currently out injured}, he was more or less on me. They didn't even help out. It made it more difficult for me to get my shot."

Tonight the Bullets helped where and when they could, but Jordan is Jordan, and occasionally he beat the double-team down the lane. More often, he settled for the perimeter jumper. And with Washington shooting 43 percent in the first half, the Bullets trailed 52-44 at intermission.

The Bullets came out in the third with their best quarter since going on the all-star break. They went on a 13-2 run to open it, taking a brief lead, and scored 34 points in those 12 minutes.

The transition game finally got going. Ellison rebounded and did an excellent job filling the lanes. English found men on the wings.

"I'm starting to feel like a point guard," English said. "It wasn't really a hard transition. My first two years in college I pretty much was the point guard. But handling the ball at this level is more confidence than anything else."

Said Eackles: "You've got to take it to {Jordan} like he takes it to you . . . it takes a while. A.J.'s a two guard, and some nights he has to sacrifice his offense. Whoever's going, that's who we have to get the ball to."

However, the Bullets also gave up 34 third-quarter points, including a rather dubious flagrant foul call on Harvey Grant (18 points) with 42.3 seconds left. Jordan converted both, then hit a jumper on the subsequent possession, and instead of maybe being down one to begin the fourth, Washington trailed 86-78.

When Craig Hodges scored with 8:01 remaining, the Bullets were down 98-87. They scrapped back slowly, getting within nine, then eight, then five on a Grant jumper with 2:25 left that made it 109-104.

Scoring on seven straight possessions, Washington made its last gasp as a basket by Grant -- he outscored twin Horace 18-6 and won the traditional dinner afterward -- took it to 113-110 at 1:08. But Jordan was fouled and made both, and the Bullets missed a couple of three-point tries.