The incident happened with just over eight minutes remaining as Nene leaked out in front of the Bulls defense to score on a layup. The basket closed Washington’s deficit 78-76 and led to a timeout by the Bulls. As Nene was making his way back up the floor after the basket, he gave Butler a shoulder nudge to clear his path. Butler took exception and shoved Nene’s arm away and then gave him a shove of his own.
The two ended brow to brow with Nene seemingly forcing his head into Butler’s. With Nene leaning forward, Butler pushed back and Nene cusped the back of Butler’s head with his left hand, and as teammates of both rushed in to get between the two, appeared to throw an open-handed right in Butler’s direction.
Butler received a technical on the play, but didn’t respond as aggressively as Nene did.
“I didn’t want to get ejected like he did,” Butler told reporters afterwards. “I can’t back down from anybody. That’s just 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’s uncalled for.’ But I’m not mad at him. He’s a competitor. I respect the guy.”
The Bulls still trail the best-of-seven series 2-1 and a chance to reclaim home-court edge, with Game 4 on Sunday