BOSTON – Better late then never, right?
Good news is that it’s not too late. One more regular season loss and it very well have a been. After all, the Bulls squeezed into the final playoff spot thanks to a tie-breaker over the Heat.
But with a second life – and it just the knick of time – the “Three Alphas” are finally what the Bulls might have envisioned when they brought them together back in the summer.
An overreaction to a pair of wins? Perhaps.
Yet over the past two Bulls’ game the combination of Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade have turned in their most impressive basketball of the season. It’s resulted in the eighth-seeded Bulls knocking off the top-seeded Celtics not once but twice, doing so in the latter contest by 14 points.
Butler and Wade had 22 points a piece and were +22 for the contest. Rajon Rondo was even better with a +24 during his team-high 40 minutes of play in which he led the team with a franchise playoff record-tying 14 assists along with 11 points.
“One thing I learned about this team is through adverse situations, this team sticks together,” said Wade after the Bulls won Game 1 and 2 on the road in a playoff series for the first time since the 1993 NBA Finals. “We had adversity throughout this year as every team has and that’s the thing that has made us closer and stronger.”
They’ve certainly had their share. Butler was thought to be on the trading block all the way up till the deadline. Rondo was benched around the new year for inconsistent play and fell out of the rotation completely for a while. Wade’s suffered a small fracture in his elbow that cost him a significant amount of the last month of the regular season.
Of course there was the mid-season quarrel over effort which was raised by Butler and Wade before being rebutted by Rondo on Instagram.
Yet somehow here they are, playing their best basketball as a group in the 2016-2017 season. How in the world is this happening? It really comes down to one of the “Alphas” – Rondo.
In the way he saw success during his career in Boston, the point guard is distributing the ball as Gar Forman and John Paxson might have envisioned when he was surprisingly signed back in July. During the month of April, even while dealing with a wrist injury in Rondo upped his assists to 7.3 a contest in that time.
In Games 1 and 2 he’s taken it to another level, especially on Tuesday night in what might be his best game in a Bulls uniform. His +24 is a far cry from his -20 against the Pacers on December 30th that earned him five games on the bench.
“I just stayed in the gym and worked. I don’t think there is nothing I’ve done as far as the mindset,” said Rondo of working his way back into the lineup. “Being a little more aggressive offensively but before the game Jimmy was telling me ‘Shoot the ball, be aggressive,’ so with him telling me that, I just try to go out there and do what I need to do for my teammates.”
Especially the ones to his left during the news conference at TD Garden on Tuesday – Butler and Wade. The much questioned trio has finally found itself at the right time to put the Bulls on the bring of a historic upset.
Indeed, “The Three Alphas” have managed to rise this season after all.