Approximately 3,800 unhappy Bullet fans were forced to listen on their radios to all or part of the first half of Tuesday night's playoff game with the Rockets because they were stuck in a traffic jam outside Capital Centre.

But traffic jams are nothing new to a 3-year-old Centre.

Here are a few tips on how to get to the areas on time.

The men in charge of getting cars in and out of the Center parking lots suggest two basic commuter rules: leave early ad car-pool when possible.

"If you're on one of the access roads to the Centre by 12:45," said Gary Handleman, assistant director of operations, "we feel sure you'll be in your seat in time for the 1:30 tipoff."

"On Tuesday," said Joe McQuail, the parking manager, "a lot of people who normally arrive at the Centre at a quarter or five minutes to 8 for an 8:05 game, didn't realize it would take more time to get in and get situated for an event that well-attended." Some 20 per cent of the fans were late, he said.

Tuesday's game was a sellout (19,035). As of yesterday afternoon tickets were still available in all price ranges for today's contest.

Tuesdays' crowd arrived in more than 8,000 cars, more vehicles than McQuail or Handleman had ever seen at the Centre. Fans usually can make more economical use of their cars on weekends, they said, because they are better able to organize into groups. During the week, they noted, many fans come directly from work and meet their friends at the gate.

Bonus tip: Try another route. Generally, more people use Beltway Exit 33 - the Central Avenue approach to the Centre - than the Exit 32 - Landover Road - route, McQuail said. The closer that ratio is to 50-50, the faster the traffic will move, he said.

McQuail said that today's crowd should have less difficulty than Tuesday's because of the weekend. Nevertheless, McQuail and the three dozen traffic directors are girding for a Tuesday-like invasion.

"We'll be out in force," said McQuail. "We're not going to roll over for Sunday.