Washington Bullets center/forward Jeff Ruland, scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee yesterday, has postponed the operation until April 4.

At that time, the procedure will be done by Dr. Kenneth DeHaven, an orthopedist at Strong Memorial Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Ruland had been scheduled to be operated on yesterday at Sibley Memorial Hospital by Dr. Carl MacCartee, the Bullets' team physician.

"I conferred with my advisers, and we felt that it would be best to wait and have Dr. DeHaven to do it," said Ruland. "It's precautionary more than anything else; there's nothing against Dr. MacCartee or anything."

Ruland has missed 14 of Washington's last 16 games with what has been diagnosed as a strain in the knee. He said one of the reasons for changing his plans was that there has been no definite determination of the exact nature of his knee problem, or what will be done surgically.

"I don't think there's anything seriously wrong, but if there were major complications, it would be better to have Dr. DeHaven. He's one of if not the best specialists in the field."

MacCartee was not available to comment.

The week's delay in having the surgery would almost ensure that Ruland, who has played in only 30 games this season because of the knee and other injuries, will miss the Bullets' nine remaining games as well as the playoffs. Ruland would not definitely concede that point, but Coach Kevin Loughery and the rest of the Washington players are assuming that is the case.

Yesterday, the team held a light practice at Bowie State College in preparation for tonight's game in Boston against the Celtics. The workout was minimal because there were only eight players available; Cliff Robinson, Dan Roundfield and Manute Bol sat out with assorted aches and pains.

With the exception of Ruland, all should play tonight as the Bullets try to become the first team to beat the Celtics at Boston Garden since the Portland Trail Blazers accomplished the feat back on Dec. 6.

Winners of three straight games, mainly because of an improved fast-break offense, the Bullets will have to come close to matching the Celtics on the backboards in order to initiate their running game and bolster their chances of winning.

"That's where it all starts, on the boards," said Robinson, who has averaged 24 points and 9.5 rebounds in the last four games. "It's fun to run, but we can't do that unless we get some rebounds first."

To defeat the Celtics -- who have only lost 13 times this season -- in Boston would have to be considered a major upset. The Bullets would also become the first team to defeat the Celtics more than once this season. Should Washington accomplish that, it would probably put the team's already burgeoning confidence through the roof.

"That's what does it for teams -- wins," said Loughery. "You can talk about locker rooms and meetings and things like that all you want, but the more a team wins, the more confident it becomes and the more it keeps on winning."