WASHINGTON – Mike Dunleavy was making so many 3-pointers the Washington Wizards overguarded him at the arc and let him drive for a three-point play instead.
The points were coming so easily Bradley Beal guaranteed at halftime Dunleavy wouldn't score again — and then clobbered the Chicago Bulls veteran during a 3-point attempt during the third quarter. The ball went in anyway, and Dunleavy completed a four-point play.
"He was in the zone, man," Beal said. "I guess the hoop looked like an ocean to him."
The Bulls needed a go-to guy after their offensive struggles put them in a 2-0 hole in their Eastern Conference first round series. For one night, at least, they found him. Dunleavy scored 35 points, one short of his career-high, and Jimmy Butler hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 24 seconds remaining Friday for a 100-97 Game 3 win.
"Coach mentioned some stuff about getting me some more catch-and-shoot situations, and we did that tonight," Dunleavy said. "A couple of easy layups early on got me going, and I just had one of those nights."
Dunleavy went 12 for 19 from the field, including a career-high eight 3-pointers on 10 attempts. Not bad for a 33-year-old who was playing in only his 12th playoff game. His teams' records in those games before Friday: 1-10. He had almost become a forgotten man in this series, scoring 20 points combined in the first two games.
"These chances have been few and far between for me," he said. "But like I told somebody this morning, especially on the road in the playoffs, it's where you can thrive. It's a hostile environment, and I like that."
Derrick Rose has been injured for so long that the Bulls are accustomed to patching together a plan that somehow creates enough points to win. They'll have to keep it up: Game 4 is Sunday in Washington as Chicago attempts to become only the fourth NBA team to win a seven-game series after losing the first two at home.
"We've got to get Sunday, for sure," Dunleavy said. "No question. It's a quick turnaround, one o'clock start. We put ourselves in a hole, we're starting to dig ourselves out, but we're not near there yet."
Beal scored 13 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, but he'll be more remembered for a walkoff interview with CSN at halftime, when he guaranteed Dunleavy wouldn't score in the second half.
Wall added 23 points and seven assists for the Wizards, who will have to wonder whether they'll have Nene for Game 4. The Brazilian forward was ejected in the fourth quarter after a forehead-to-forehead confrontation with Butler. Nene grabbed Butler by the back of the neck and the side of the head before they were separated.
Nene is almost certain to get fined, and a suspension is possible.
"I have nothing to regret," he said. "I'm a warrior right there. What I did, I'm supposed to do."
Nene has been called the "X-factor" by Wall. It sure didn't help that he wasn't available for the final 8:28 of a close game.
"It looked like an MMA move to me," Dunleavy said. "It was one of those headlocks. It was great that Jimmy kept his cool. I think a lot of people put in that situation would've started throwing blows."
After avoiding the ejection, Butler made two 3-pointers down the stretch and finished with 15 points. He had struggled with his shot in the first two games, shooting 8 for 21 from the field.
"Short-term memory loss," he said. "It's a new day, new game, new possessions. My team needs me to step up and take the open shot when it's there and definitely knock it down when it's needed."
After Butler's final 3, the teams traded fouls and free throws over the final two dozen seconds. Washington had a chance to tie when Taj Gibson missed a free throw with 3.1 seconds to play, but Trevor Ariza threw the ball out of bounds after grabbing the rebound in a miscommunication with Wall.
"We definitely have to play like a desperate team," Ariza said. "We didn't do so tonight."
Notes: After a plea from owner Ted Leonsis to show up on time, the Wizards fans did a better job getting to the arena for the opening tip of their first home playoff game in six years, although there were still sections with plenty of empty seats. Fans were given red, white or blue T-shirts, and Leonsis did his part by showing up in a blue coat, red sweater and white shirt. ... Bulls C Joakim Noah got into a confrontation with a Wizards security official during the Bulls' shootaround Friday morning. Washington coach Randy Wittman said his team was to blame. "That's got to be something from our side that shouldn't happen," the coach said.
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