Dormant for nearly six years, silent for most of the season, and waiting patiently — and at times, angrily — for a team to get behind, Washington Wizards fans arrived at Verizon Center on Friday night in anticipation of a show. Playoff basketball hadn’t been played in this building since LeBron James crushed the last first-round flameout of the Gilbert Arenas-Antawn Jamison-Caron Butler era, and the lean years in between set the stage for what unfolded as a sellout crowd, separated only by red, white and blue T-shirts, came prepared to wear out their lungs.

The noise was at times deafening, the enthusiasm lasting until the closing seconds as more than 20,000 fans witnessed a thrilling, physical battle that was highlighted by Nene’s ejection after an MMA-level exchange with Bulls guard Jimmy Butler. But with Nene sent to the showers early, the Wizards were unable to reward the dedication of the fans with a win.

Desperate not to go down three games to none, the gritty Chicago Bulls, a heavy favorite in this series before losing the first two games at home, played a game more suited to their preferred style and pulled out a 100-97 win.

“This was everything that my teammates and I have been waiting for. Especially me for four years,” John Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in 2010 said after his first home playoff game. “The sad part is that we didn’t get the win.”

The Wizards still have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, with Game 4 Sunday, but they lost their edge just as they lost their best big man in the fourth quarter. Nene’s status for the next game remains in question after an ugly, heated exchange in which the Brazilian forward locked heads with Butler, grabbed him by the back of the neck with both hands and appeared to swing as he was being pulled away. Nene was tossed, but Butler (15 points) stuck around and later buried a go-ahead three-pointer to give the Bulls a 94-91 lead they never relinquished.

“When you play physical both ways, things get hot. It’s over,” Nene said. “Not only me, but the whole team, we’re thinking about Game 4 and stepping up for real in a big series. Things don’t go fair for both sides, you need to move on.”

When asked if he thought he would be available for Game 4, Nene replied, “I don’t know, you know the rule.”