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Putting 45 in context

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To be completely honest, I don't think I was able to fully appreciate Monday's 114-69 thrashing over the Bucks until I read some reactions to it from distraught Milwaukee fans. From our friends at MKE Bucks Diary:

I remember at the bell to end the 7th round of the Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson fight, when it was clear something historically significant was unfolding, HBO announcer Jim Lampley said "You begin to search your memory for the greatest upsets in heavyweight championship history." Listening to the Bucks-Pistons game today, around the middle of the fourth quarter, when it became clear that something historically bad was clearly happening, I began to search my memory for the worst loss in Milwaukee Bucks history.

Today's game has to be the worst. The hapless Bucks scored 69 points and lost by 45. It will almost certainly go down in Bucks infamy as the New Year's Eve Massacre. I wouldn't be surprised if it costs someone, upstairs or on the court, his job.

Worst in franchise history? Surely he exaggerates ... Then again, maybe not. From a comment on Brew Hoop (full post):

I have covered nearly 600 Bucks games. The game today was the worst Bucks effort I have witnessed. There was a game in Seattle about four years ago where they scored 57 or 58 points. But at least in that game they played with effort, they were just ice cold shooting.

So, two blowouts in the last four games. What can they do? They fired the coach last year and this coach is only in the first year of a three year contract. The GM seems to be on solid ground, for what reason I know not.

This franchise is in deep shit.

That helps put things into context from a Milwaukee fan's point of view, but at the same time, it makes it more difficult for me to wrap my head around.

By the above accounts, what the Pistons did to the Bucks was something for the history books ... and yet, as I watched the game unfold, it honestly didn't look all that different than what I'd already seen in long stretches in numerous games this year.

The difference, of course, was that Detroit simply never let up. Whereas in the past they'd be dominant for two or three quarters at a time (frequently burying the opposition in the third), on Monday they maintained that level of play over 48 minutes.

As I mentioned in my post-game thoughts on HOOPSWORLD, you'd think a 45-point beatdown would feature at least one stand-out individual performance, right? But Detroit didn't have a single guy score more than 22 points. Instead, they had 11 guys score at least six. (I wish I knew how to check, but I'd wager that hasn't been done by another team in the league in a long, long time.)

It's been said in the past that Detroit has the best starting five in the league, but I'd argue they have the best bench, as well. That's a topic that probably deserves an entire post of its own, but it's obvious there are guys in the back of Detroit's rotation that could probably start for several teams in the league. (For that matter, there are guys the Pistons don't even dress that would get serious burn anywhere else.)

And so in a blowout game when both teams pull their bench and Detroit's depth is matched up with the bottom-feeders that round out a losing team's roster, it's not surprising in the least to see the score get as lopsided as it did on Monday. It's not just their talent, but also their intensity, as Chauncey Billups pointed out after the game:

"I call them the zoo crew," said Pistons guard Chauncey Billups.

"They're like some caged animals out there. It's so much fun to watch those guys."