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Jimmy Butler keeps his cool, then buries winning shot

Updated: April 26, 2014 1:38AM



WASHINGTON — Ask most of the Bulls’ players, and they’d tell you emotions were bound to boil over. They just feel fortunate they were the ones who were able to keep theirs in check Friday night against the Wizards in Game 3 of their first-round series.

A fourth-quarter scuffle could prove to have major implications on the outcome of a series the Wizards lead 2-1 after the Bulls’ 100-97 victory.

With 8:27 left in the game, Wizards forward Nene took exception to what appeared to be a benign hand check by Bulls guard Jimmy Butler. Nene immediately went up to Butler, attempted to head-butt him, then put him in a headlock.

Butler appeared to yell back at Nene but didn’t retaliate. Both players were called for technical fouls, but Nene was ejected and could face a suspension pending review by the league.

“I knew I had to,” Butler said. “I didn’t want to get ejected like he did, nothing like that. I can’t back down from anybody. That’s just not in me.”

Said Bulls forward Mike Dunleavy: “It looked like an MMA move to me. 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 have started throwing blows, but Jimmy hung in there. Obviously losing [Nene] probably hurt their team.”

At the time of the ejection, the Bulls led by two. The scuffle might have energized the Bulls, but it certainly hurt the Wizards. Play in the paint has been very physical in the series, and Nene is as good as anyone on either side down low.

Butler’s presence paid dividends for the Bulls. With 24.2 seconds left and the score tied, Butler hit a three-pointer that ended up being the most crucial basket of the game. After being held to six points in Game 2, Butler scored 15 in Game 3.

“It was going to happen eventually,” Bulls forward Taj Gibson said of the scuffle. “You look how the battles [are] being played every trip down in the paint, and I’m surprised it didn’t happen in the first two games. But it’s playoff basketball. You’ve just got to be smart. You just can’t put your hands on people.”

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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