WASHINGTON -- The location changed, but the script was very similar through most of Bulls-Wizards Game 3 on Friday night.
The Bulls carried a lead well into the fourth quarter, made some bad mistakes down the stretch, and the two teams treated each other like blocking sleds under the basket.
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There were a few significant changes, though. Mike Dunleavy came alive to score 35 points and set a franchise playoff record for 3-pointers made with 8.
Then someone crossed the line when it came to physical play, and it resulted in the ejection of Bulls nemesis Nene 8:28 left in the fourth quarter. The other man in the scuffle was Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, and he stepped up to provide the late-game clutch play the team has been missing.
Butler's 3-pointer with 24.2 seconds left broke a 91-91 tie and, after some late free-throw follies, the Bulls hung on for a 100-97 victory. The Bulls trail this first-round series 2-1 with Game 4 on Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Center.
"You look at the battles down in the paint, I'm surprised (an ejection) didn't happen the first two games," Taj Gibson said. "It's part of basketball, man. You just have to be smart. You can't put your hands on people."
The actual skirmish was a little bizarre. Nene scored off a long pass 8:28 remaining and as the players turned to walk up court, Nene appeared to hit Butler with an elbow. Butler took exception and put his hand on Nene's side.
The Wizards' burly power forward turned and forcefully rammed his forehead in Butler. Butler stood his ground and Nene then grabbed Butler's head with both hands and pushed it down.
"I didn't think it was that serious, but obviously he thought it was," Butler said. "I was just saying, 'Watch all that. It was uncalled for.' "
Butler was the Bulls' leading scorer in the fourth quarter with 11 points. The Bulls lost late leads in the first two games of the series and sorely needed a late-game scorer to step up. Butler agreed that getting a little time off in the first half might have helped.
"That might have had a little bit to do with it, to tell you the truth," he said. "That's just shooting the ball whenever you're open. Jo (Noah) with two big handoffs and just taking shots I know I can make. I feel like I was much more aggressive, and that's the way I have to be."
This has been an extremely physical series. The Bulls get credit for roughing it up under the basket, but they might be losing the overall scrum in this series to Nene, Marcin Gortat and Trevor Booker.
Before Game 3, a Washington reporter asked coach Randy Wittman about how the Wizards haven't responded when the Bulls try to mix things up, but the opposite might be more true.
"It's a real physical series, but that's the type of basketball that we want," Butler said. "Two hard-playing teams. It's going to be a dogfight every night. We've got a lot of tough guys, too. When it comes down to it, I like our chances."
Before getting ejected, Nene was not playing as well as he had early in the series, with 10 points, 4 rebounds and 5 turnovers. He hit 5 of 15 shots from the field.
He missed most of a fourth quarter that featured an overload of drama. Noah's jumper put the visitors up 85-78 with six minutes remaining. Then the Bulls kept up their tradition of sloppy play down the stretch. Washington used a 9-1 run to take the lead and were ahead 91-89 with 2:41 left after a Bradley Beal 3-pointer.
The Bulls tied it when Butler and Gibson went 2-for-4 at the foul line, and Wall returned the favor by missing a pair of free throws with 1:27 left. Both teams missed chances to take the lead before Butler drained his clutch 3-pointer.
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