Nenê made a lay-up on the fast break with 8:30 remaining, then elbowed Butler in the back as he began jogging back on defense. Butler appeared to say something to Nenê, who turned around, pressed his forehead against Butler’s and then grabbed him by the back of the neck, shoving Butler’s head downward before officials, and Wizards forward Trevor Booker, separated the two players.
Officials reviewed video of the incident and handed out the technicals, which forced Nenê from the game. The Wizards forward retreated to the bench immediately after the incident and waved his arms to generate excitement from the crowd, then untucked his jersey and headed to the locker room after the decision was announced.
“When you play physical, both ways, things get hot,” said Nenê, who had 10 points in 29 minutes. “But, you know, it’s over, and no way to be but the whole team thinking of Game 4 and step forward and take series.”
The ejection means Nenê will receive an automatic $1,000 fine, and it remains plausible additional discipline could be handed down. The league reviews all ejections and will determine on Saturday if Nenê will be eligible to play in Game 4 on Sunday.
Butler, who remained in the game, finished with 15 points, including a tiebreaking three-pointer with 24.9 seconds left and a pair of free throws 12.2 seconds later.
“Just two people wanting to win a game, competing,” Butler said. “I guess he gave me one of those [forearms] and I didn’t like it. It is what it is.”
Nenê might not be the only player suspended. By rule, any player leaving the bench during a skirmish is automatically ineligible to play in the next game. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau called a timeout following Nenê’s lay-up, which concluded a 7-2 run for the Wizards, thereby allowing any bench player to take the court.
Wizards center Marcin Gortat, however, appeared to step away from the bench before the timeout was granted, which would put his availability in doubt for Sunday as well.
Drew Gooden replaced Nenê in the rotation after his ejection, but did not score and had only one rebound in five minutes.
“It hurt a little bit because he’s definitely a great inside presence for us and creates a lot of havoc on both ends of the floor,” Beal said. “At the same time, we were still in the game. … We can’t make an excuse for him being out of the game.”