When the shots don't fall, this team won't regularly win. And when you can't defend or attack the paint, you won't win. Thirteen makes in 37 tries from your Big Three is atrocious. Giving up a 35% offensive rebounding percentage to the opponent is atrocious. Twenty-one turnovers in 96 possessions is atrocious. When all that crap happens, you're going to lose. By a lot.
At the same time, the game was in question until midway in the fourth. The officiating was poor (not 26-points poor), and apparently it's against the rules to look at Al Thornton sideways.
I suppose this back-to-back is the sort of thing you need when making up your mind about where this team should go. I mean, for all the heights of beating a halfway decent team by 30+... losing to a team who'll top out around 33 wins on the season by 26 the next night is lower. It's an expectations game. You expect to beat New Jersey, but not by 30. It's a nice bonus, a slice of hope, and little more. You expect to beat Los Angeles, not lose by 26. It's almost disastrous, with little good to take from it. This team's truth is, obviously, somewhere in between the hope and the disaster. Is somewhere between hope and disaster going to get you into the playoffs, and past the first round? I'd argue no. Many of you would as well. That's why we think we'd prefer to see Beno Udrih and John Salmons as starters and Mike Bibby and Ron Artest helping another team, one with a more realistic chance at glory.
The last four minutes of the game reinforced this, for me. Spencer Hawes needs game minutes to figure this thing out. Look at Thornton -- he's played 700 minutes this season, he's 24 years old... and he's just starting to figure it all out this week. Shawes has played 279 minutes, he's 19 years old. At this rate, he'll figure it all out by 2013.
Trading a small forward and a point guard don't really help Hawes get in the game directly... but it does signal something. (I'm a sucker for symbolism, I guess.) And it's not like Reggie Theus is going to stop trying to win games, or like Kevin Martin is going to stop going to the basket, or like Mikki Moore's not going to scream Oh! Sh*t! as much. Remember the Dallas game? No Ron, no Mike, little hope. Best game in two years. Entertaining, competitive basketball and rebuilding are not mutually exclusive -- that's a lesson we've all learned this season.
So, um, let's get on with it.