Don Collins will be in the starting lineup tonight when the Bullets try to extend their latest winning streak to five games by repeating Saturday night's pulsating one-point victory over Milwaukee.

Kevin Grevey still is bothered by a slight groin pull and did not accompany the team to Milwaukee last night. The seven-year veteran also is expected to sit out Wednesday night's televised game at New Jersey in an effort to be at full strength for the playoffs.

"The games this week are very important, but they're not as important as the playoffs," Grevey said yesterday as he watched his teammates prepare for tonight's return match with the Bucks (WTOP-1500 at 8:30).

"You have to be very careful with this type of injury," Grevey said. "If you come back too soon, you can really tear it, then you're out for the season. It's better to miss a game now than miss next week when the playoffs start."

The Bullets clinched a playoff spot with their 115-114 victory over Milwaukee, but still are battling New Jersey and Atlanta for fourth place and the home-court advantage in the miniseries.

The way Collins has been playing lately, Coach Gene Shue said he's not overly concerned about Grevey's absence and agrees that it not worth the risk of aggravating the injury against the Bucks.

"Don played his best season of the season Saturday night," Shue said, alluding to Collins' 20 points and eight rebounds in 36 minutes. The second-year swing man from Washington State made nine of 13 shots and grabbed four offensive rebounds.

"I told Don that I was particularly pleased with his rebounding," Shue said. "He's a great runner, but sometimes tends to get out on the break too quickly. If he stays and helps rebound, he still can get out and use his speed."

Collins is a different type of player from Grevey. He doesn't have the long-range shooting ability, but he's much quicker and gets a lot of transition baskets.

"I just try to be ready and take advantage of whatever playing time I get," Collins said. "I'm at my best in the running game and lately we've been running more."

Collins has made 20 of 30 shots in the last four games and scored 42 points while averaging 23 minutes. His scoring seems to come in spurts, which usually gets the Bullets going.

In a come-from-behind victory at Indiana on Wednesday, Collins played the entire fourth quarter. Two nights later, in Chicago, he scored six points in a four-minute span when the Bullets widened a five-point lead to a comfortable 10 just before halftime.

"Don's a runner," said Frank Johnson, who is directing the offense almost exclusively now. "I like to run and when I take off, he's usually ahead of me. If we can get some easy baskets that way it helps the whole offense."

Since playing 44 minutes in Indiana when John Lucas said he was ill and missed the game, Johnson appears to have gained confidence and seems more sure of himself.

The first-round draft choice from Wake Forest led the scoring with 21 points against the Pacers and contributed 15 points and 11 assists at Chicago. Against Milwaukee, he sank 10 of 13 shots and had 13 assists.

"Frank is playing extremely well," Shue said. "Confidence is a big part of his game and right now he's back to where he was before he got hurt. When the offense is going well and everybody is executing, he plays very well."