Just when it appeared that the Chicago Bulls were on the verge of another fourth quarter collapse to the Washington Wizards, an unlikely hero surfaced for the Bulls right when they needed him. His name is Nene.
After Nene cut Washington’s deficit to 78-76 with 8:28 left in the fourth quarter of Game 3, the Wizards center seemingly lost his mind after the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler took exception to being bumped.
Following an exchange of words, Nene headbutted Butler along with slapping and grabbing the Bulls forward by the neck. Butler was given a technical for his part in the altercation, but Nene was issued with an automatic ejection from the game. Without the services of their big man, the Wizards later lost to the Bulls 100-97.
Although the Wizards still lead the series 2-1, they must prepare to play Game 4 without Nene who also is suspended for Sunday’s game. This is a crushing blow for a Wizards team that has used Nene as an unstoppable force in the paint. Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah was out of his element when guarding the 6-foot-11, 250 pound Nene. The Wizards center is averaging 17 points while shooting 53 percent from the field in the series against the Bulls.
However, with Nene out for Game 4, Noah will be free to be himself without having to worry about the overpowering center. Noah is at his best when he is helping his teammates defensively—coming over from the weak side or even stepping out during pick-and-rolls. That is what the Bulls rely on from Noah, and that is why he won the Defensive Player of the Year award.
During the regular season, the Bulls were 1-2 in the season series against the Wizards. Their only win came at the nation’s capital in a 96-78 blowout without Nene on Apr. 5. In that game, Noah was his dominating self by scoring 21 points to go along with 12 rebounds. So, it is not too far-fetched to think that Noah might have a similar game without the likes of Nene in Game 4.
If Nene kept his cool during his altercation with Butler, the Wizards could be up 3-0 on the Bulls with a chance to sweep. Instead, without their center, the Wizards are in jeopardy to have the series tied headed back to Chicago. Good job, Nene.