As a spot in the National Basketball Association playoffs slips further away from the Bullets, Coach Gene Shue is still trying to think positively. It's becoming difficult.

"We're playing hard and playing good most of the time, but we just aren't winning," he said. "If we don't panic and can keep playing like we have been, that should change. We're playing hard and hustling, so I'm pleased with the effort. We'll start winning some games soon. We have to."

Time is running out.

The Bullets, playing at home for the first time since Feb. 10, lost to the Milwaukee Bucks, 101-99, Tuesday night, their sixth defeat in seven games. They are 25-31, in last place in the Atlantic Division and two games behind the New York Knicks in the race for the last of six playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

The Atlanta Hawks (29-29) have the fifth-best record in the conference, so the Bullets are as concerned with them as they are with the Knicks. Washington will play the first of three games in 14 days against the Hawks tonight in Atlanta (WDCA-TV-20 at 7:30).

"We're going to approach these next few games with the attitude that we just have to play as hard as we can and hope for the best," said Shue. "Our players realize this.

"Atlanta is a team we knew we'd have to beat all along, and they (the Hawks) are starting to turn it on now. If they don't run too much, we'll have a chance. We'll have to play slow to win. They have the personnel to run, but they usually try to play a controlled game. I don't know what they'll do against us."

The Hawks have beaten the Bullets twice this season--105-88, in the third game of the season at Atlanta, and 97-91 at Capital Centre Christmas night. The Bullets have lost 13 of 14 on the road.

Besides contending with the Hawks so often in the near future, the Bullets will play the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers Friday night at Capital Centre, and the Philadelphia 76ers, the best team in basketball, March 12 at Capital Centre and March 13 at the Spectrum.

Before the games against the 76ers, they'll have a respite against the Chicago Bulls Wednesday.