Washington Bullets reserve forward Tom McMillen sat out Friday's 120-114 home victory over Houston with a sore right wrist but is expected to play tonight against Atlanta in New Orleans (WDCA-TV-20, 9).

He and starting forward Greg Ballard, who has a lower back strain, practiced yesterday and, according to Coach Gene Shue, there is "no problem with either player." Ballard played 33 minutes against the Rockets, getting 11 points and four rebounds.

Center Jeff Ruland (strained shoulder), who was placed on the five-game injured list Wednesday, must miss tonight's game and two more before he can be reactivated.

Washington (34-33) is a half-game ahead of New Jersey (34-34) in the race for third place in the Atlantic Division; the Nets defeated Indiana, 129-105, Sunday. The Bullets and Hawks have split four games this season, each team winning twice at home.

Although tonight's game is considered a home game for Atlanta, the University of New Orleans gymnasium has not been overly kind to the Hawks. They are 5-5, playing before an average of 4,207 fans. Take away the 10,079 who came to see the Boston Celtics and the average dips to 3,555.

Barry Mendelson, formerly in the front office of the New Orleans (now Utah) Jazz and now a concert promoter/businessman, offered the Hawks $1.2 million to play 12 weeknight games in New Orleans. Since the guaranteed $100,000 per game was more than the Hawks would make on the average weeknight in Atlanta, they accepted his offer. But according to Hawks spokesman Bill Needle, Mendelson is "losing his shirt" because of the sparse attendance. "It was a good idea, but I don't think anybody would do it again," he said.

As far as Shue is concerned, "It's still a road game for us. The only difference is that it's like a road game for them, also. It's just like any other type of performer, they like an audience, but I don't think (the lack of fans) will affect us."

What might affect the Bullets is the play of Atlanta's all-star forward, Dominique Wilkins. He is averaging 27.3 points, seventh-best in the league.

"One on one, there's no one in the league that can really cover him. We'll try a number of different things," Shue said.

The Bullets will return from New Orleans to host New York Wednesday. Washington is 5-0 against the Knicks this season. "It would be nice to get a couple of wins in a row," Shue said. "We need some momentum heading into the playoffs, and it would be nice to have some type of cushion."