Butler keeps his head to keep Bulls alive

By Fran Blinebury, NBA.com


VIDEO: Dunleavy leads Bulls to Game 3 win over Wizards

WASHINGTON — Give Jimmy Butler credit for keeping his head.

No small feat when a guy the size of Nene is trying to rip it off.

Another day in the playoffs, another night of pushing, shoving, elbowing and jersey pulling.

All that had changed from the first two games was the location to the nation’s capital, where the Wizards and Bulls resumed the impersonation of Republicans and Democrats playing down and dirty.

Then the lid blew off the pot.

Nene had just scored on a breakaway layup when he turned to run back up the floor on defense and happened to reach out with his left arm and clip Butler with a chicken wing.

Butler responded with a one-handed shove in the side and then things got interesting.

The 6-foot-11 Nene leaned in first to put his forehead squarely against Butler. Then he reached up and clamped his right hand around the back of Butler’s neck. Then with his left hand, he tried to take Butler down.

Nene was ejected with 8:28 left in in a two-point game, which left the Wizards vulnerable, Butler inspired and the Bulls quite suddenly empowered.

“Just two people wanting to win the game competing and I guess he gave me one of those and I didn’t like it,” Butler said. “So it is what it is.”

What it was in the immediate aftermath was a chance for Butler to take a handoff from Joakim Noah, run around a screen and bury a critical 3-pointer.

“Whoooo!” said Noah. “Jimmy, that was a big 3.”

Maybe if this wrestling match goes the distance, it will just get lost in the all the muck. But for now, how Butler handled the whole affair and the way he scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter was exactly what the Bulls needed to get themselves going to close out a game.

“I knew I had to [stay composed]. I didn’t want to get ejected like he did or nothing like that. But I can’t back down from anybody. That’s not in me. “I didn’t think it was that serious, but obviously he thought it was. I was just saying, ‘Watch all that.’ It was uncalled for. I’m not mad at him for him. He’s competitive. I respect the guy.”

Nene wanted to put it all behind him.

“You can’t control when you play physical, things get hot,” he said. “It’s over. The whole team is thinking about Game 4 and stepping up for real in a big series.

“It’s over. You need to move [on]. That’s what I’m doing. Now we need to come here [and] play the right way in Game 4 and forget about what happened.”

But what happened could have been the spark to restore the confidence back in the Bulls, who had let fourth quarter leads slip away in both of the home losses to open the series and none of them were really surprised that emotions boiled over.

“I think it was gonna happen eventually,” said Bulls forward Taj Gibson. “How the battle is being played, every time down in the paint. I’m surprised it didn’t happen in the first two games. It’s playoff basketball. You got to be smart. You can’t put your hands on people.

“It gets chippy, but you gotta be smart. You can get ejected. You can get suspended for a game. You gotta keep your hands to yourself.”

There might be some cause for concern by the Wizards if the NBA office decides to take a further look at what happened. In these kinder and gentler times of the 21st century, a suspension of Nene is not something that can be entirely dismissed.

For the Bulls, what mattered is the first step back. They knew falling into a 3-0 hole would have sealed their fate.

“We got heart,” Gibson said. “We care. It doesn’t matter who believes in us. We believe in each other. We believe in what the locker room says. And the locker room says we have a chance. We’re going to fight to the last blow.”

But keep their heads like Jimmy Butler when it matters.

20 Comments

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  2. Jeff says:

    Will have to be 7 now

  3. okc2014 says:

    Nene cost the Wizards Sunday’s game. Not good.

  4. southwindy says:

    I can’t believe anyone is saying anything about Butler’s reaction. As many have stated here already, that was the softest push back you will see in any game this year! Boozer pushes his own teammates harder than that just to get a rebound. What I saw was that head to head moment just created some nasty tension that got the best of Nene. Maybe he had a flashback to a similar moment or something, who knows. We know he got a game suspension now and it seems appropriate. I am a Bulls fan and I don’t think 2 games is necessary. He let his team down big time… first time they are on the stage in so long and he jeopardizes it…

  5. Jason B says:

    Nene made a big mistake. He should have known how important he is to his teams success. His team was in control of the game at that point. He chicken-winged Butler, Butler gave him a little “cut-that-out’ hand in the side. That could’ve been all that happened. It could’ve been a double-technical or a no call. But for Nene to turn it into a brawl showed a real lack of discipline, maturity, and thought. I give Butler kudos for not fighting back and getting ejected himself. This could cost Washington the series.

  6. krespino says:

    Nene should certainly be suspended. Imagine every other player doing what he has done to Butler unnecessarily? There wouldn’t be any basketball to be watched. Should not be accepted or tolerated.

  7. #BullsFanDan says:

    Great win! We showed a lot of heart. The will to win. Jimmy Butler was huge, way to keep your composure Jimmy. Don’t back down from any thug. Not just take care of them in game 5 and get control of the series. Go Bulls! #SeeRed #Bulls

  8. you says:

    so this and that crazy tony allen foul, please this is rigged as hell

  9. Xenon says:

    It’s rare to see anyone bully the Chicago Bulls, but that’s what’s been happening this whole series. Nene and Gortat have been pushing Noah, Gibson, and Butler around. Butler barely even touched Nene, look at the replay, he didn’t even use his full hand, just his fingers! Let alone give any sort of real shove, just enough to say, “Hey, knock it off with the elbow!” And Nene responded like any true bully does, afraid of having his dominance questioned he tried to force Butler to comply. I don’t think a suspension is warranted, but the ejection surely was!

  10. Kyle Wilson says:

    Grabbing someone by the head was uncalled for. Yeah they were both going hard and it was unintentional, but the head grabbing was too far. Nene should be suspended for game 4 he could have seriously hurt someone

  11. Bobby Z says:

    Nene has been getting pounded all series. It’s hard to get hit and not respond.

  12. cp10 says:

    It’s trash talk & psychological manipulation that built up to it, always is.

    “It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in
    your shoe.” —Muhammad Ali

  13. Art says:

    Nene should be suspended for 2 games: One game because he put his forehead against Butler’ head and actually touched it & one more because he clamped his right hand around the back of Butler’s neck.

  14. Jayzens says:

    Ridiculous how people try to excuse Nene actions yesterday. If he is suspended (wich I serious doubt) there would be no one to blame but himself. Ridiculous how a veteran player show such imaturity, specially compared with the calm the young Butler showed in the same situation. Did you really thought that the Bulls were about to be swept in this series?! Havent tou learned anything from last year playoffs?! Just as Brooklyn fans :)
    I believe!

  15. Tom Thibodeau says:

    Nene is much bigger then Butler. I doubt he would have done the same with Taj or Noah. Good thing he was a bone head and ejected. If they just budded heads I think that would have been alright. We got a win and that’s all that matters. We’ll review the tape, correct what we need to, and try to rob another game on Sunday.

  16. Big Al says:

    Nené just needed a reason to get into a fight and one little touch from Butler was all it took. It was obvious that he was gonna bully the guy much smaller than him by grabbing his head. Let’s see you do that to Dwight.

  17. BG says:

    Look at the tape, bozo. They initially got tangled and pushed each other, and it escalated from there. Butler should have been ejected too. The only way your Heifers can win is with these unjust ejections.
    If Nene is suspended for Game 4, it will be the biggest injustice by nba bigwigs since they ejected Diaw and Stoudemire in 2007 for merely leaving the bench to check on a teammate that Horry shoved.

    • rayray says:

      Initial shove by Nene, reciprocated by a light arm by Butler. Nene Initiated the headbutt, and then grabbed his neck and tried choke or bring him down to the floor. If McRoberts got fined $20,000 for an intentional foul with unintended harm, describe to me how Nene would get away with nothing for intentionally harming Butler.

  18. jdub455 says:

    O cmon nene!!! Wiz cud have gone up 3-0 if not for that… butler’s an a-hole and he obviously wanted nene to do what he did which was to overreact… butler sacrificed for the team, and they won… but still the bulls almost loss if not for the once in a million game by Dunleavy. To nene, cmon bro, keep ur cool. U so important to this young wiz team.

  19. joranimo23 says:

    i believe… many of us believe! bulls on 6!