On Feb. 15, 2010, Celebrity's Mercury cruise ship set off on an 11-day voyage to the Caribbean.
Passengers were looking forward to a great week and a half of sun, water, exotic cuisine, and as many Christmas card photos as their digital cameras could hold.
For a short time, all was well. But soon enough, what could be called a romantic/honeymoon-like sail through tropical waters became a nightmare of gastrointestinal proportions.
The norovirus ripped through over a fifth of the ship's passengers and crew, spreading like a plague and making it a cruise to remember for all the wrong reasons.
Even with an "enhanced sanitary cleanse," the stomach virus remained, waiting patiently for the next batch of unfortunate souls, eager to introduce them to a new cruise friend name John.
The moral of this (literally) gut retching story? A new coat of soap doesn't wash away the root of a problem, no matter how hard you scrub.
A new coach in the middle of an NBA season can't change the identity of a team, regardless of how different the coach's style is from his predecessor. Consider the Milwaukee Bucks' 103-87 loss to the Detroit Pistons an unceremonious, Mercury cruise-like end to the Jim Boylan honeymoon.
Beno Udrih. Udrih was masterful in the second quarter, scoring 13 points on 6-6 shots, dispersed among a couple PUJITs, sneaky rim attacks, and general silent Udrih-ness. The rest of the game (1-4, 2 points), Udrih's most memorable moment was an unintentional screen he set...on Mike Dunleavy. Which opened up an easy triple shot for Brandon Knight.
Monta Ellis. Ellis and his bum ankle were great in the first half (6 pts, 5 asts), until they weren't in the second (7 pts, 3-7 fg, 0 asts, 2 TOs). He finished the game with 13 points on 12 shots, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 turnovers. Oddly enough, Ellis was efficient at the rim (5-6 in the restricted area), but abysmal elsewhere (1-4 fg, 0-2 3fg). Give his ankle some credit for Ellis' swelled apprehension as the game progressed.
Samuel Dalembert. There was a sequence in the fourth quarter where an isolated-under-the-basket Dalembert was forced to choose between challenging a driving Knight or blocking out a waiting Andre Drummond. He did neither, and Knight lobbed an oop to Drummond for an easy dunk. In 12 minutes, Dalembert finished with a somewhat respectable 6 points (2-5 fg), 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks, most of it innocuous in the face of a steep deficit. Basically, much like the departure of Scott Skiles, Dalembert isn't going to solve the Bucks' root issues.
33-11. The Bucks' 11 third quarter points matched a season low, and the Pistons' 33 matched the high mark for points allowed in the third frame this season. The Bucks' made 5-21 shots (23.8% fg), while making Greg Monroe and the Pistons look like a model of NBA efficiency (8-11 at the rim, 2-3 3fg, 68.4% fg overall). *Flush*
-10. Milwaukee won the battle in the painted area (52 vs. 48), but Detroit was a clear victor in the realm of second chance points (18 vs. 8). Thank the girth of Monroe (3 orbs), Jason Maxiell (2 orebs), and Drummond (4 orebs) for this unfortunate chain of events.
-7. The stat that best supports coach Jim Boylan's assertion that the team's legs were super glued to the floor in the second half (more on this in a bit) is the discrepancy in fast break points. The Pistons netted 21 to the Bucks' 11, including 14 in the first half. Oftentimes, Milwaukee was forced to commit a foul to prevent another easy Detroit basket. Not what you want to see from a team built on running at confused defenses.
Three Two Good
The second quarter bench explosion. Bucks officials should promptly burn every shred of evidence this game ever happened. Except for the second quarter, where potential trade bait Beno Udrih took over for a brief period of time and led the team to a 29-16 rally.
Blocks. The Bucks had 12 of them. Larry Sanders in particular had as many blocks (3) as he did fouls (3), shot attempts (3), and points (well, you get the point). Honestly, do we really care about this always-fun skill if the team wins and loses in such an inconsistent manner? Is it really making that much of an impact if the team gets 12 blocks, win or lose?
Three games in four nights. Boylan, on the team's second half:
"It's our third game in four nights. It seemed like our legs got a little heavy in the third quarter, and it was pretty evident by the fact that we missed a lot of open good looks that we had throughout the game," Boylan said. "Pretty much throughout the first quarter, I know that we had at least 10 that we missed that were good open shots that we have been making. So, our legs were a little heavy, and for us, like a lot of teams, when you're struggling offensively, it can bleed into other areas of your game, and it looked like that's what happened tonight."
Rebounding. The Bucks currently rank 28th in defensive rebounding rate, while the Pistons fittingly sit at 8th for offensive rebounding rate. Here's Boylan talking about the team's obvious size deficiencies:
"If you look at our starting front line, Larry's not a thick guy and Ers is not a thick guy, so in today's NBA, you don't find a lot of front courts like that...for the most part, you got guys that are playing out on the perimeter a lot and kind of look like us," Boylan said. "Tonight we played against a team that's given us problems in the past. And that's one of the main reasons. They're a physical team at just about every position. The fact that they were able to control the glass against us all night long. Every rebound we got, it seemed like it was a labor, just to get it. So that wears on you."
This is a cut-and-dry problem unsolvable by anyone on the roster. This is the part where our comment section blows up with Trade Machine scenarios :-).
Inconsistency. Game-to-game, quarter-to-quarter, possession-to-possession, you really never know what the Bucks are going to look like. That's an awfully scary omnipresent truth to behold for a team that expects to make, and make waves in the playoffs.