The “Three Alphas” get back together to take down the Hornets

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The “Three Alphas’’ had a reunion Monday night.

It was about time.

With Rajon Rondo back in the starting lineup for the first time since late December, the Bulls snapped a five-game skid, beating the Hornets 115-109 at the Spectrum Center.

Rondo, Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade — nicknamed the “Three Alphas’’ by Rondo before the season started — combined for 66 points, including 20 from Rondo.

The Bulls (32-35) also received a boost from Nikola Mirotic, who went from inactive Sunday to key player off the bench, scoring a team-high 24 points.

It was the first time since Jan. 16, 2008, that the Bulls had four players score at least 20 points.

More important, aside from the 11 minutes unnecessarily given to Cameron Payne, coach Fred Hoiberg leaned on eight players, staying away from the deep rotation, as well as the pressure from the front office to focus on developing youth.

Instead, Hoiberg seemed focused on getting a key victory in mid-March as his team fights its way back into the Eastern Conference playoff race. This is what the team was supposed to look like all year long.

“Yeah, that’s what I came here for,’’ Rondo said. “But, like I said, it’s a process that I went through. It didn’t kill me. Those were decisions people made, and that’s out of my league.’’

Rondo said Hoiberg sent him a text Sunday night that he wanted to talk to him Monday morning about getting his starting job back. It wasn’t the first time Hoiberg approached Rondo with that idea.

A source said Hoiberg approached Rondo about starting last month, but Rondo wasn’t receptive.

“Yeah, I was more receptive this time,’’ Rondo said. “I don’t think I wasn’t last time. I just thought I had a better rhythm with the second unit.’’

Butler and Wade were glad to have Rondo back, fresh off a first quarter in Boston in which the team scored only nine points.

“It helps to make shots, but [Rondo] got us a lot of open ones,’’ Butler said. “Attacking the paint, spraying the ball out to open shooters, whatever it takes to win games, to tell you the truth. That looked really nice tonight. I’m guessing we’ll do it again Wednesday, so I guess we’ll find out. If we play like that, we’ll be OK.’’

Rondo set the tempo right away, scoring 11 points and handing out three assists in the first quarter as the Bulls jumped out to a 36-24 lead.

As for Mirotic, he was admittedly surprised that he played just under 29 minutes after it seemed as if the Bulls were done calling his number this season.

“It was a different game for us, and I think we enjoyed it a lot,’’ Mirotic said. “For a long time, we didn’t enjoy playing basketball, and today we finally enjoyed the game.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.
Email: jcowley@suntimes.com


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