A disgraceful dismantling like the Bulls perpetrated on the Sixers last night leaves you asking questions, as a player and as a fan. If you're a team with a proven track record, you may feel ashamed, then sort of shake it off as an off night. If you're the Timberwolves, you may cry yourself to sleep and wonder how many times it's going to happen next week. If you're the Sixers, well, your bubble is probably going to burst. At least it seems as though that's the reaction we're seeing from the fans.
I'm not preaching here. I was thoroughly disgusted during the game last night, and that disgust only grew as the night went on. I'm not feeling all that much better right now, to be honest. And there's a legitimate reason for that. I'm like a battered wife when it comes to this team. Over the past couple years, they've given me ten times more reasons to pull my hair out than to jump for joy.
When the team ripped off a dozen or so games of quality basketball, the progression went something like this: Skepticism, disbelief, guarded optimism, superstition (didn't want to jinx it), enjoyment. Then it all came crashing down in a dreadful 48 minutes. The knee-jerk reaction was, "Jesus, this team is terrible." Then came the finger pointing. Check the game thread and the comments on the wrap. Suddenly Evan Turner's struggles of the utmost importance. Suddenly Iguodala's a poor leader again. Suddenly Jrue's three-game slump means he's terrible. Suddenly, well, this team is worthless. Basically, here we go again.
The Sixers haven't done anything to make us feel any different. They don't have any goodwill in the bank to fall back on. A game like that dissolves what little trust the fans may have built up over the previous weeks. Suddenly, all the wins are called into question. The stout defense seems like a fluke, the inspired team play like a mirage. Doug Collins' smoke machine finally ran out of dry ice. The mirror was broken.
Is the team as bad as they played last night? No. Everything that could've possibly gone wrong, did. Chicago hit 15 of 26 long twos. No one shoots 57% from 16-23 feet, if they do, they're unguardable. The Sixers couldn't do anything on offense, and everything they tried on defense failed. It was just one of those nights. All this game tells us is that when the Sixers don't defend and can't shoot, they're going to get killed. That's true of pretty much every team in the league. Chicago was relentless. Even with a 40-point lead, they wanted more. They're a young(ish) team on the rise, making a name for themselves under a new coach. That's what they're supposed to do.
So here we are again. Shattered. The question isn't what does last night's game mean. We have no way of knowing right now. The question is, where do they go from here? Do they bounce back right away, or does it bury them? Can the players and the coach put it behind them quickly and focus on playing an even better team tonight, or do they suddenly question themselves, and their coach? Does Doug Collins react in some way detrimental to the team? Does he think he can avoid embarrassment like that by playing his veterans more?
Or do they turn the page on a terrible game? Do they show some faith in the play, in the system that turned their season around a couple of weeks ago? I'm honestly not sure. People who want to believe, who want to have faith the team is headed in the right direction, will look for any glimmer. People who don't will probably reference this Chicago game for the rest of the year as proof they're right about the team and the players.
The fact of the matter is they've still won 8 of 12. They're ahead of the game on the Ice Capades road trip. A 1-1 start is probably better than anyone could've reasonably hoped for. It was one game. They can still easily rally and come home with 14 wins, which was the ultimate goal heading into the trip. The question is whether they're going to be able to move past last night's game quickly, because if they don't, none of us will be able to. It will wind up being the defining moment of the 10-11 season if they allow it to snowball. If it leaks from 48 minutes to 96 and beyond, whatever faith the 8/11 restored will be gone for good. You can only kick a dog so many times before he turns on you.