The Bulls earned the victory they needed to keep their season alive on Friday night in the type of nail-biting, late-game fashion this series has made seem routine. It took eight threes from Mike Dunleavy Jr. and the ejection (and impending suspension) of Nene for his part in an altercation with Jimmy Butler, but the Bulls outlasted the Wizards 100-97 in Game 3 to move the series to 2-1 ahead of Sunday's Game 4 in Washington, when Chicago can knot things up.
It was a wild game, which only continued a theme we've seen throughout the first round around the league. Who better to put things in proper perspective than Joakim Noah?
Noah was a quote machine in the locker room following the victory, but we have to lead with something he only mouthed, according to reporters. From Mike Wise at the Washington Post:
Going on midnight Friday, Joakim Noah, America’s most ornery, nails-on-a-chalkboard player, rubbed salt on the wound.
"Looks like you’re going to lose Nene for a game," the Chicago Bulls center said to no one in particular as he shuffled down the hall outside the Verizon Center press room. Almost cackling, he added, "What a bummer. [Stinks] for you guys."
A few steps later, he mouthed, " ’Roid rage."
Steroid use is very much swept under the rug in the NBA, so this is a bit news-worthy, whether Noah was joking or not. Let's not forget that the same evidence the MLB purchased to indict one of its biggest stars in decades also had NBA connections, but the league thankfully saw no point in pursuing it.
Noah vs. Nene has been the defining matchup of the series, and Wizards big man had gotten the better of our Defensive Player of the Year in the first two games. If Nene is suspended for Game 4, which seems likely, it's going to give Noah and the Bulls a major lift.
The biggest shot of Game 3 was hit by Jimmy Butler. Butler missed all four of his three-pointers in the first two games of the series, but nailed a huge shot from behind the arc to break a tied game and give Chicago a 94-91 lead with 24 seconds left.
How did Jimmy do it after playing over 40 minutes for the third straight game this series?
Noah on how Butler is able to play through fatigue: "The guy is built different. He's a black cowboy. I think that's as unique as it gets."— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) April 26, 2014
Last but certainly not least, we have the scene in the Bulls locker room following the win, when it was announced Dunleavy was headed to the podium. Mike Prada has the full story on SB Nation:
Either way, as the media surrounding the cramped visiting locker room swarmed to Jimmy Butler following an emotional 100-97 Bulls victory over the Wizards to cut Washington's playoff series lead to 2-1, a Bulls public relations staffer announced that Dunleavy was headed to the interview podium, an honor reserved for the game's top individual standouts.
Suddenly, a weary Bulls locker room came to life. "AAAH," screamed Taj Gibson from one side. "AAAH," shouted another Bull from the back. "AAAAAH," shouted Noah as he leaned back in his chair. A beat passed and nobody followed, but Noah had one more thing to add. "WHITE AMERICA," he shouted as those media members shuttled out.
Mike Dunleavy, he could be one of your kids.