Perhaps we should just call it road-court advantage in this series.
After losing the first two at home, the Chicago Bulls stole a much-needed Game 3 at the Verizon Center on Friday night, defeating the Washington Wizards 100-97.
Mike Dunleavy poured in a career-playoff-high 35 points and knocked down a franchise-playoff-record eight three-pointers, and Jimmy Butler, who scored 11 of his 15 points in the final period, hit a go-ahead trey with 24 seconds to go, providing just enough to help the Bulls avoid another fourth-quarter collapse and a 3-0 series deficit.
Taj Gibson and D.J. Augustin added 13 each off the bench, as Chicago shot 47.9 percent from the field.
Bradley Beal again led a balanced effort for the Wizards with 25 points and an array of big shots, while John Wall chipped in 23 points and Trevor Ariza (16 points and 11 rebounds) and Marcin Gortat (13 and 11) had double-doubles.
But Nene was ejected in the fourth quarter, and the Wizards missed some late free throws and made some killer mistakes in the final seconds to erase any chance of winning a third in a row.
Unsurprisingly, Randy Wittman pointed to his team's defense as the main culprit for the loss, as TruthAboutIt.net's Kyle Weidie noted:
While both games in Chicago featured some big leads and inspired comebacks, there was very little separation in Game 3.
The biggest deficit either team faced in the opening 24 minutes was seven, as the Wizards led by two after the first quarter and by three heading into the break.
Chicago's offense, which was painfully stagnant through several spurts in the first two contests, was kept afloat nearly single-handedly by Dunleavy. The veteran journeyman was scorching hot from the field, leading all scorers with 16 points on eight shots at halftime.
At halftime, Beal talked about shutting down the 33-year-old in the second half, via CSN's Michael Wargo:
That guarantee lasted all of 168 seconds of game time, as Dunleavy hit a free-throw early in the third quarter, scored on a tip-in a few possessions later and then knocked down a three at the 7:35 mark.
As ESPN Stats & Info noted, he was already at a playoff career high:
A four-point play by Dunleavy recaptured the lead for the Bulls, who entered the fourth quarter ahead by three, and yet another trey to start the fourth quarter entrenched him in the franchise's record books, as Bulls radio producer Jeff Mangurten revealed:
It appeared as though Chicago was pulling away, but a three-point play from Beal and a couple of quick baskets from Nene, who had been non-existent for much of the game, quickly cut the Bulls' lead down to two with 8:30 to go.
After the second score, though, Nene locked horns with Jimmy Butler. Here's a look at the altercation, courtesy of Rotoworld's Michael Gallagher:
Nene was ejected, and Butler hit a three on the next play, but Washington showed resiliency, going on an 8-1 run after the six-minute mark to tie the game at 86 with just under four minutes to go.
As the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson and Teddy Greenstein noted, the late-game collapse from the Bulls was just more painful deja vu:
This one wouldn't go the same route, though, as Butler hit a big three and knocked down a couple of free-throws, sealing the win for Chicago despite some last-second theatrics.
While the Wizards will be disappointed with the defeat, they aren't likely to see another Herculean effort from Dunleavy like this one, and they still get another home game on Sunday to attempt to extend the series lead to 3-1.
Still, the Bulls have proven resilient all season long, and they made it very clear on Friday they aren't going to lay down.
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