Who knew it would come down to Mike Dunleavy having some sort of career night to keep the Chicago Bulls and their playoff hopes alive? The Washington Wizards had no answer to his dominance from beyond the arc, as they lost 100-97 at home, as their lead in the series was cut down to 2-1.
Dunleavy didn’t hit crazy 3’s. The Bulls moved the ball well and kept getting him open through screens, with Carlos Boozer blocking Trevor Ariza time and time again to help free up Dunleavy. The Small Forward finished with 35 points including 8-of-10 from beyond the arc and 21 points on catch and shoot. The rest of the team scored 15 points on 6-of-17 from the field on those plays, and Dunleavy averaged 5.4 points through the season on catch and shoot.
But it wasn’t just Dunleavy’s scoring that put the Bulls back in the series with another close game this time going their way. Maybe the most important shot came from Jimmy Butler, breaking a 91-91 tie with a 3-pointer after struggling throughout the series from long range. Joakim Noah set up the assist and the screen for Butler to come through, and Butler finished the game with 15 points and also responsible for Nene, having a rough night, getting ejected.
The Brazilian center shot 65% when Noah was guarding him in games 1 & 2 but the defensive player of the year brought back his defensive mojo kept Nene on only 2-of-11 from the field when he was on him. Nene finished with 5-of-15 shooting, scoring only 10 points and not getting to the line. He locked heads with Butler as 8:28 were left in the fourth quarter. He then hit Butler on the side of the head and put him in some sort of choke hold. Both players were T’d up, Nene was thrown out of the game.
The beginning of the game was mostly about the Wizards. John Wall (23 points) had some nice looks in fast breaks situation and Bradley Beal led the team scoring 25 points. But the Bulls’ D became tougher to punch through in the second half, and no mistakes on the offensive end meant no transition looks. Trevor Ariza did OK on the offensive end with 16 points, but defensively it just wasn’t his night. He also botched up the chance to tie the game, making a mess of his rebound after Taj Gibson missed a free throw in the final seconds that could have iced the game.
Momentum doesn’t seem to mean much in this series. It shifts in each game three or four times, and the Wizards winning twice on the road did nothing to change the way the Bulls played. They simply executed better on defense and especially offensively during the second half. They’re not going to get Dunleavy scoring so many points once again, but releasing the few shooters they have instead of letting D.J. Augustin run wild seems like a pretty good idea from here on out, and maybe an idea that will help them bring back home court advantage and the upper hand in the series.