Just how do you measure a team's success?

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Photograph by Jonathan Bachman

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Thornton!

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The easiest and most obvious way to measure the worth of a team is by looking at their record. The Hornets, after holding off the Golden State Warriors 135-131 Monday night at New Orleans Arena, the Hornets sit at 32-32 and in 10th place in the Western Conference standings. They are neither that good, nor that bad, relatively speaking and, if they played in the East, very well could be in the playoffs. In the end, you could make arguments either way as to the quality of this team.

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On one hand, the Hornets played well. Their 135 points was a season-high, Darren Collison set a new Hornets rookie record with 20 assists (also an NBA game-high this season) and six Hornets finished in double figures (including David West and Marcus Thornton, who each finished with 28 points) and three finished with double-doubles. Collison continued to show poise at the point and delivered late with the ball in his hands. The Hornets shot well and, in the end, scored more points than their opponents.

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On the other hand, the Warriors are objectively a terrible team. They have the third-worst record in the whole league, have the second-worst defense in the league and only had eight players in uniform in their loss to the Hornets (a game in which the Hornets gave up a season-high 131 points). So while there are definite positives signs to take away from the win for New Orleans, the glaring negative is that this team has been unable to show this type of production against potential playoff teams in the West.

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In their last four games, the Hornets lost all four to teams ahead of them in the Western Conference standings (including two terrible double-digit losses to the San Antonio Spurs). Dating back to the start of February, the Hornets have had just two wins against teams with better records (against Boston and Orlando). Of their 19 remaining games, 14 are against teams currently in the playoffs or fighting for a spot.

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And while every win counts, some wins mean more than others. Edging out one of the worst teams in the league in a defense-optional shoot-out does not make up for getting blown out by twice in three games against a division rival. Especially when those losses are part of a four-game losing streak against potentially playoff-bound teams. The Hornets scored quality wins against the Magic and the Celtics but couldn't carry that momentum into wins against Western Conference teams in their next games.

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No, the Hornets may not be bad enough to completely miss out on the playoffs, but they haven't shown they're good enough to make it in either.

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