It came down to crunch time yet again, but for the first time in this playoff series, the Chicago Bulls pulled off the 100-97 victory over the Washington Wizards at the Verizon Center Friday night.
The Bulls’ struggles were still evident from the start in Game 3, but they managed to keep up with the Wizards in the first quarter. It was never a tie game in the initial 12 minutes, but the lead drifted back and forth from Chicago to Washington.
The Wizards managed to obtain a six-point lead at the 1:59 mark of the period, but a layup from Carlos Boozer quickly brought the Bulls’ deficit back to four points. Washington would maintain their lead, but it would be cut down at the end of the period, 30-28.
To open the second quarter, the Wizards went on a 5-0 run, which forced Chicago head coach Tom Thibodeau to call a timeout. Coming out of the timeout, Mike Dunleavy drained his third three of the night to give the Bulls their first point of the quarter. It also sparked a 16-4 run by the Bulls. But just as the Bulls looked like they had finally taken control of the game, the tides turned.
Chicago went on an offensive drought in the latter end of the second quarter. Washington, on the other hand, ended the first half on a 9-0 to take the 51-48 lead into halftime.
For an offensively-challenged team, the Bulls found themselves shooting 51.2 percent from the field come halftime. Along with that, though, they also committed 10 turnovers, which resulted in 15 points for the Wizards. Ironically, the defensive-minded Bulls allowed the Wizards to shoot 47.7 percent from the field in the first half.
Washington extended its lead to nine points at the beginning of the third quarter, but a split pair of free throws from Joakim Noah and a pair of threes from Dunleavy cut Chicago’s deficit to three points.
Dunleavy continued to thrive offensively throughout the quarter, as he finished the period with 13 points to lead the Bulls to a 72-69 lead.
Bradley Beal and Nenê combined for seven points early on in the fourth quarter to bring the Bulls’ lead down, 78-76. Right after that, though, Nenê and Jimmy Butler got into a small fight initiated by a Nenê headbutt. The two received double technicals, but Nenê was also ejected from the game.
After the ejection, Butler buried a three to extend Chicago’s lead to five points. This would later become a seven-point lead, but the Wizards weren’t going anywhere.
Washington brought the score to 85-84 after a three-point play by John Wall. A free throw from Gibson and a shot from Beal tied the game at 86. Chicago called a timeout, but then, Beal followed up with back-to-back baskets to give the Wizards the 91-89 lead. Butler and Gibson proceeded to each split a pair of free throws to tie the game back up.
Butler buried another three to give the Bulls the 94-91 lead. From there, the game went back and forth with fouls. 12 made free throws later, the Bulls still had the advantage, and went on to get the win.
Dunleavy’s 35 points (12-19 FG, 8-10 3 PT) led all scorers. Butler followed with 15 points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal while Boozer had 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal. Augustin and Gibson added 13 points apiece.
The Bulls trail the series 2-1, and they’ll see the Wizards again Sunday at 12 p.m. central for Game 4.