The Bullets know they need a lot of help if they are to overtake the Chicago Bulls and make it to the playoffs. They got some Friday night when the New York Knicks knocked off the Bulls, 127-117, at Madison Square Garden.

But they need a lot more.

The Bullets were idle Friday so the New York result reduced Chicago's lead over Washington to two games in the race for the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference of the National Basketeball Association. Both Chicago, 37-37, and Washington, 35-39, have eight games remaining.

The Bullets play host to Cleveland today at 1 o'clock at Capital Centre.

The Bulls are on the road today in Kansas City. If the two teams are tied at the end of the season, Chicago will qualify for the playoffs becauce the Bulls won the season series with the Bullets, 5-1.

Even though the Bullets are coming off two straight losses and didn't play well in either game, Coach Gene Shue isn't too worried about catching Chicago.

"We expect Chicago to lose some more games," he said yesterday after sending his team through a 90-minute workout. "They aren't exactly setting the league on fire."

The remaining schedule favors the Bullets, as five of their last eight games will be at Capital Centre. The Bulls will be on the road for four of their last eight.

The Bullets have two games remaining with Cleveland.They play the Boston Celtics at Capital Centre Tuesday and then at Boston Garden Friday.

The Celtics are battling Philadelphia for the best record in the NBA, which will give them a lot more money and a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

Center Wes Unseld didn't work out again yesterday because his arthritic right knee swelled up again. He'll have it drained early today and Shue said he thinks Unseld will be able to play.

The Cavaliers are one of the NBA's worst teams, with a 25-47 record. They had lost nine in a row going into last night's game against Atlanta and Friday they replaced Coach Bill Musselman with Don Delaney.

"I don't know what to expect from Cleveland," Shue said. "Just looking at it, there's no way they should beat us, but they'll be loose and if we aren't ready to play . . . I think we are ready, though. The players all know the importance of the game."

The Bullets must keep Kevin Porter in the game if they expect to win. The Bullet playmaker has fouled out of the last two games and, without him, the Washington offense just doesn't function smoothly.

After the two Boston games, the Bullets will have home games remaining with Atlanta, New York, Detroit and Cleveland. After today, Chicago will have Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Atlanta at home and Cleveland, Detroit and Indiana on the road.