Much like the first two games in Chicago, Game 3 went right down to the wire, until the Bulls eventually went on to win the game, 100-97.
First off, the energy at the Verizon Center was absolutely tremendous. Washington fed off the sold out crowd’s energy right from the start, as John Wall dazzled the crowed with a powerful dunk in transition, followed by a missed 360 layup that surely would’ve been in the highlight film for years to come. Wall was spectacular all game long and went on to finish the contest with 23 points on 7-14 shooting to go along side 7 assists. Wall was aggressive, attacking Kirk Hinrich with penetration, which set the tone for the game early on. Unfortunately for Wall, he missed two of the most important free throws of the game that could’ve gave Washington a two point lead late in the fourth quarter. He’s missed free throws in pressure situations in the past, which is pretty mind boggling, considering how composed he plays for the most part.
Bradley Beal was terrific once again, scoring 25 points with 4 rebounds and 5 assists. Beal hit three 3-point shots tonight, including a big one to tie the game up in the fourth. Beal, like Wall, missed a crucial free throw late in the fourth quarter. I’ll give him a pass since he’s been playing great basketball all series long, but the backcourt is eventually going to have to step up at the line. Missing *free throws late in games is unacceptable.
Marcin Gortat bounced back with a solid game after a miserable Game 2 performance with a double-double. Gortat scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Trevor Ariza contributed with a double-double of his own by scoring 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
Of course, I have to address Mike Dunleavy‘s big game. For some reason, the Wizards have allowed the least likely of players to light them up this season and that continued with Dunleavy tonight. He scored 35 points. I joked around on Twitter, saying that he looked like the second coming of Michael Jordan tonight, but he was seriously unstoppable. The good news is, I don’t expect Dunleavy to continue to hit 8-10 three point attempts in the remaining games. If it takes a 35 point performance from Dunleavy for the Bulls to stay competitive, then I wouldn’t expect the series to go on much longer. He hit some tough shots and you just have to live with it.
Dunleavy’s ridiculous performance will perhaps be overshadowed by Nene’s ejection, which came in the fourth quarter after a scuffle with Jimmy Butler. Nene had been visibly frustrated with the lack of foul calls going his way, and though some of his frustration was warranted, he let his emotions get the best of him. Chicago is a very physical team and I’m very surprised Nene let himself get out of control. Butler and Nene collided after Nene finished a layup, and then Nene proceeded to grab Butler’s neck, which obviously earned him the ejection. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s suspended for Game 4. Moral of the story: If you put a player in a muay thai clinch during a basketball game, you’re going to get punished for it.
The series has been very close, but the Wizards will have a chance to extend their lead on Sunday night at home. It remains to be seen if Nene will be able to play. Tonight’s loss was certainly frustrating, but I honestly didn’t expect Washington to sweep Chicago. They’re simply too gritty and sound defensively to go out that way.