Washington shot 49 percent and outrebounded Chicago 45-39 with Nene setting the tone inside. He hit 11 of 17 shots and grabbed eight rebounds.
Andre Miller came on strong down the stretch, scoring eight of his 10 points in the fourth, and the Wizards pulled this one out even though Wall and Bradley Beal (13 points) combined to shoot just 7-of-25.
Kirk Hinrich and D.J. Augustin each scored 16 points, and Butler had 15 for the Bulls. But after posting more wins since Jan. 1 than any other Eastern Conference team, the Bulls find themselves in a hole.
“There are a lot of things you can do to help your team win. We’re capable of playing a lot better,” coach Tom Thibodeau said.
The Bulls led by 13 early in the third and were up 69-57 midway through the quarter when the Wizards went on a 13-2 run to make it a one-point game.
Ariza’s 3-pointer cut it to 71-70 with 3:32 remaining. Noah answered with a layup and Taj Gibson hit two free throws to make it a five-point game, but a basket by Miller made it a three-point game going into the fourth.
“Up 13, we exhaled and they came back,” Noah said. “Bad turnovers. They got some easy scores. We got to make our adjustments. This is chess. It isn’t checkers.”
The collapse was surprising given the resolve the Bulls showed all season. They could have easily packed it in after losing Derrick Rose to another season-ending knee injury and trading away Luol Deng. Instead, they dug in, and they were in good shape in this one before everything came apart.
The Bulls overcame a 14-point first half by Nene and took a 54-48 lead to the locker room after a strong second quarter.
Augustin drove for a three-point play with just over a minute left to finish the first-half scoring and start a 13-3 run that stretched into the third quarter and made it 64-51.