WASHINGTON — The Washington Wizards have a lot of work to do between now and a suddenly pivotal Game 4 on Sunday.
They might have to start with humbling themselves.
That means informing their director of security to not incite Joakim Noah during shootarounds. Maybe have Bradley Beal stay away from making halftime television guarantees on how Mike Dunleavy was done scoring, and finally, attempted head-butts of Jimmy Butler by Nene should be frowned upon.
Yes, the young upstart Wizards spent most of Friday poking the Bull, and in the end the Bull poked back.
Thanks to 35 points from Dunleavy, including a franchise playoff record eight three-pointers, and then Jimmy Butler’s clutch three-pointer with the game tied and 24 seconds left, the Bulls avoided the 3-0 hole, beating the Wizards at the Verizon Center 100-97.
Just like that, the series is 2-1, and the Bulls still have a chip on their shoulder.
“It was an ugly game, but wow, Dun … Dunleavy man,’’ Noah said. “Unbelievable performance. Guys stepped up. It’s the first of four and every game is a battle. I’m just happy we got the win.’’
Noah should have been happy with how the entire day went.
It started at the shootaround when Wizards director of security Jackie Miles got into a profanity-laced shouting match with Noah because he wanted Noah off the court.
Then at halftime with the Wizards up 51-48, despite 16 points from Dunleavy, Beal said in a television interview that he guaranteed Dunleavy wouldn’t score any more.
“He said what? Today? We’re not feeding into that,’’ Bulls big man Taj Gibson said. “We’re just about focusing on our team. We’re not about going to the media, taking shots and everything. We’re just focused on the task at hand and trying to get the ‘W.’ We’re still down 2-1.’’
With 8:27 left in the game and the Wizards down by two, Nene and Butler exchanged elbows and forearms, before going head-to-head. Nene then tried to grab Butler, was given two technical fouls, and ejected.
Noah, of all people, played peacemaker.
“Just emotions are riding high,’’ Noah said. “Just got to keep your composure. I’m not the one to talk. I’ve been in those situations, but it definitely was a bonus to have him out of the game.’’
And Butler in it.
“Just two people wanting to win a game, competing,’’ Butler said. “I guess he gave me one of those and I didn’t like it. It is what it is.’’
Butler had the last laugh, and was huge down the stretch, with no shot bigger than that three-pointer to break the tie.
“It is,’’ Butler said, when asked if it was hard to stay composed. “But I knew I had to.
Now the attention turns to Sunday afternoon, and a Game 4. The Bulls have life, and for a veteran core, that’s huge.
“Of course you’re going to feel confident,’’ Gibson said of the Wizards’ mind-set. “You’re up 2-1 on the fourth seed.
“I would feel the same way, but you have to lock in, you have to focus. You can’t get into the name-calling and all the bickering. You got to just keep your mouth shut and play ball.’’