If the Washington Bullets are going anywhere this season, they have to start now. The "our backs are against the wall" and "there's no tomorrow" cliches are operative.

The Bullets are in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, and only six teams make it to the playoffs.

Seven of Washington's next eight games will be at Capital Centre, beginning tonight at 8:05 against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Bullets (25-34) face an uphill struggle even before the game starts.

Bob Dandridge, who has missed five of the last seven games, remains hobbled by his pulled calf muscle and most likely will not play. John Williamson, the high-scoring reserve guard, has the flu, spent yesterday in bed and is doubtful.

Kevin Grevey again will have to play some at small forward and Larry Wright will get the call as the reserve shooting guard.

Going into last night's contests, the Bullets trailed the New York Knicks by four games and the Indians Pacers by 3 1/2 in the race for the sixth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Bullets also are feeling pressure from behind. New Jersey is only a half-game back and, if Cleveland wins tonight, the Cavaliers will move to within a half-game.

Coach Dick Motta was still out west scouting yesterday, so his assistant, Bernie Bickerstaff, ran the team through a brisk 90-minute practice, its first since Sunday's game in Los Angeles.

"With Bobby and John out, we're still scrambling," Bickerstaff said, "but we're definitely still in the race. We just need a little help."

One of the biggest plusses for the Bullets, as they head into the homestretch, is the resurgence of Kevin Porter.

He put on a scintillating 10-point, eight-assist show against the Lakers that got his teammates going.

"K. P. has played his way back into our plans," Bickerstaff said.

After tonight's game, the Bullets will play the San Antonio Spurs here Friday, take a day off, then play the Knicks Sunday afternoon at Capital Center.

The highlight of yesterday's practice was a driving slam dunk by the 6-foot-1 Wright over 6-9 Elvin Hayes. "You don't want me to hurt the Bug, do you" Hayes asked . . . Cleveland most likely will be without Campy Rusell, who has a groin muscel injury.