The only thing familiar about the New York Knicks is Coach Red Holzman, who is thinking young these days as the Knicks have become, uncharacteristically, a wide-open, bombs-away team.

In the past, the Knicks beat the opposition with heady players, tough defense and exqquisite teamwork. Now they are using more individual skills.

The Knicks are 7-7, with two rookies in the starting lineup. Their most experienced starter is a three-year man.

"Sometimes it's tough with these young guys," said Holzman, "but they learn fast and they all know how to play the game. Every game is an experience for me."

The 4-7 Washington Bullets will test the Knicks at 7:30 tonight in Madison Square Garden (WDCA-TV-20).

It will be the Bullets' third game in five nights and the first of four games this week.

They will return to Capital Centre Wednesday to face the Chicago Bulls and then go to New Jersey to face the Nets Friday. The Utah Jazz come in to Capital Centre Saturday.

The Knicks are the only team in the NBA with three players averaging 20 points or more.

Third-year man Toby Knight, from Notre Dame, is the scoring leader with a 22.4 average, 10th best in the league. Primarily a jump shooter, Knight is shooting 55 percent from the field.

Rookie center Bill Cartwright is averaging 21 points a game and shooting 53 percent. Guard Williams is averaging 20.9 points a game.

Williams and Michael (Sugar) Ray Richardson give the Knicks one of the most exciting guard tandems in the NBA.

Richardson is averaging 12.8 points a game and shooting 54 percent. He also leads the NBA in steals with 3.6 a game.

Richardson and Williams are among the league leaders in assists, too, with 7.4 and 7.2, respectively.

The other Knick starter is Arizona rookie Larry Demic.

The Knick veterans, Earl Monroe and Marvin Webster, are on the injured list. Webster has his sore knee in a cast and will not be ready before December. Monroe has a hip injury and is expected back in a couple of weeks. d

Meanwhile, the Bullets seem to be improved off their weekend performances, even though they lost to the Hawks, 110-106, in Atlanta Saturday.

In that game the Bullets were out-rebounded by 10 and their reserves were outscored, 44-26.

Kevin Grevey is on the injured list, which forces Phil Chenier to be a starter. Roger Phegley, the team's third-leading scorer, is still bothered by a sore ankle. Mitch Kupchak is a couple of weeks away from being activated and guard Larry Wright is in the midst of one of his worst slumps ever, having made only two of his last 15 shots over three games.

Greg Ballard has been the most reliable reserve, averaging 11.1 points and six rebounds a game. He is also shooting 51 percent from the field.

"When we get the bench right, we'll be okay," said Elvin Hayes, the Bullets' leading scorer with a 22.8 average. "That's what's helped carry us in the past. You look at all of the good teams and they have strong benches." i