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Mike Dunleavy, held scoreless in the first half, had all 11 of his points in the first six minutes of the third quarter, at which point the Wizards held a game-high 64-51 lead. The Wizards regrouped with a timeout, then slowly started to whittle away at the Bulls’ lead, pulling within three, 75-72, at the end of the third quarter.

“As I told the guys the last couple of days, we have to be able to survive, or stay in the game, when we go down and have five, six or seven straight possessions of not scoring,” Wittman said. “Both teams can go through that. Who’s going to stay in the fight when you do that? We did.”

Miller, who finished with 10 points, offered a steady hand in place of Wall, who subbed out with 1:47 left in the third quarter and didn’t return until 4:33 remained.

Ariza made his pair of free throws 16 seconds later to give the Wizards the 88-87 lead, and the Bulls spiraled out of control. They made just two of their final nine shots, several of which were rushed and off balance.

The Bulls’ vaunted frontcourt of Boozer and Joakim Noah, touted as a potential defensive player of the year candidate, was held in check by Nenê, Gortat and Trevor Booker. Boozer finished with 11 points, while Noah added 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Washington won its lone regular-season meeting with the Bulls in Chicago on Jan. 13. A third victory, in Game 2 on Tuesday, would set them up well for when the best-of-series heads back east later in the week.

“Obviously, it give us a lot of confidence,” Gortat said. “It give us a lot of belief that we can win another game here, but still, we’ve been in this situation many times. We can’t get excited. We’ve got to stay focused. We’ve got to get ready for the next game. We’ve got to recover as soon as possible and put ourselves in better position even for the second game.”