Bullet center Wes Unseld, who suffered a sprained left ankle in Washington's humiliating 100-83 defeat to the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday night, said yesterday he didn't think the injury was too serious and that he would try to play tonight at Capital Centre against the New Jersey Nets.

Unseld wasn't able to have the ankle X-rayed yesterday, but he said it will be done today before the 8 p.m. game as a precaution.

"It's sore," the Bullet captain said. "I'll just have to wait and see how it feels tomorrow (Thursday). I'm sure it's no more than just a sprained ankle. I can walk on it, but I can't run. The next 24 hours will tell a lot."

Unseld injured the ankle early in the first period when he came down on a Hawk player's foot after going up for a rebound. He came out of the game for six minutes, and, when he tried to play again, he wasn't effective.

During halftime, the ankle stiffened. When Unseld tried to play in the third quarter, he couldn't, spending the rest of the game in the dressing room. t

The ensuing defeat was the Bullet's fifth in their last six games and their prospects for improvement look dim, especially if Unseld can't play.

All season the Bullets have had trouble finding the right combination. Unseld is one player who blends in with almost any other Bullets.

A front line of Elvin Hayes. Greg Ballard and Mitch Kupchak doesn't click, but any two of the players teamed with Unseld does.

If Unseld can't play, either Kupchak or rookie Ricky Mahorn will start in his place. Unseld missed one game in October with a pulled leg muscle and Mahorn started.

The Atlanta game was one of the season's most disheartening for the Bullets. They were outscored, 21-1, at the outset of the fourth period and scored only 11 points in the final 12 minutes. Washington shot only 37 percent for the game, the fourth time this season its field-goal accuracy has dipped below 40 percent.

Tuesday's loss- coupled with a 102-96 defeat to the New York final 3 minutes 48 seconds -- has left Coach Gene Shue wondering where he is going to find an offense.

Guard Kevin Grevey, who got a stay of his one-game suspension at least until Jan. 5 when Commissioner Larry O'Brien will hear his appeal, has shot the last two games like he had already suspended himself. He missed 21 of 28 shots.

Austin Carr isn't ready to play much more than five or six minutes a game and the newcomers, David Britton and Keith McCord, aren't quite ready for the NBA yet.

The Bullets now have fallen to 14-21, but they are still ahead of the Nets, one of the major disappointments of the season.

Coach Kevin Loughery resigned suddenly Monday and his assistant, Bob MacKinnon, was elevated. He is 0-1.

In his debut, MacKinnon started both his highly touted rookies, Mike O'Koren from North Carolina and Mike Gminski of Duke. The 6-foot-11 Gminski is averaging 13.8 points a game and has a season high of 31. He is shooting only 41 percent from the floor, however, and because of his frailness is getting pushed around a lot. O'koren, a 12.2 scorer, also is second on the team in assists.

Forward Cliff Robinson and guard Foots Walker have been out with injuries.

The Bullets will be off Friday and then host Moses Malone and the Houston Rockets Saturday night.