Friday, January 28, 2011

B.C. Sleeps.....Alone Tonight

Best win of the year. No doubt, no question, no hesitation. We just witnessed, for the first time since a beautiful toe was mowed down in the prime of its youth, some legitimate Duke Basketball. Oh my, those runs! That sequence where Nolan shook the shoes right off an Eagle with a behind-the-back dribble-juke, fed Snowshoes Junior for the jam, then watched as Seth Curry knocked down a leaning three and sent the Crazies into spasms...Sweet Moses that was delightful. Sweet, smiling Moses on a mountain.

GRANTED. BC did not match up well with the Dukies. There's this blogger called Seth Curry Saves Duke! (I don't get the name, I mean sure, I like Seth Curry, but didn't they win a national title without him??), and here's what he had to say about the game yesterday:

Folks, I am here to tell you that you won't beat Duke with guards. And you won't beat them with the 229th-ranked defense in the country...To put it mildly, this is a match-up nightmare for the Eagles. Their only hope is to out-shoot us, and that's no hope at all...We're going to beat them by 15-20.

The final score was 86-64, 16 points. Hey, say what you want, that guy knows his basketball!

(Google image searching 'smug asshole'...)

Man, that guy gives me the willies. He's less smug than like calmly picturing how I'd die if the world was all in anime. (Answer: electrified with something called a 'lightning foot sword.') I'm really considering deleting that photo...AND YET I CANNOT!

Let's do some grades.

Seth Curry: A. Coach K's quote from the press conference sums it up pretty well:

"Even though he hasn't shot the ball well until tonight in the ACC, his play has gotten better," Krzyzewski said. "We've seen him growing. The thing that you would expect from him -- to shoot -- he wasn't doing that. That's going to come as he gets into that, it's not just physical shape, it's the shape of playing a game like that, what level of concentration you need to have when you're doing all these other things."

Just unbelievable. 5-7 from three, 20 points, 3 assists, 4 boards. Best game of the year, obviously, for the man with the proper genes. This is what I was expecting two years ago when he announced his transfer from Liberty. And I agree with Coach K; aside from the N.C. State game, where he was jobbed by the refs and got in early foul trouble, he's been just waiting for one of these break-out performances. I expected him to score 16-20 against Wake, but it took an extra game. And once again, he was great on d. 3 steals, and time and again he showed unbelievable anticipation. I love watching smart players in action, and Seth is brilliant. He can pick out tendencies within a game and use that knowledge against an opponent as time wears on.

The perfect example last night was BC's use of the backdoor pass in the first half. They scored a couple easy buckets that way, particularly because Duke was on the look-out for the three, and it even helped create open shots. In the second half, Seth came from the weak side to nab a couple steals on attempted back door cuts, which is a perfect way to defend it without sacrificing man-to-man pressure. His help defense was a big reason why BC only hit 3 treys in the second half, with one of them coming in garbage time. And he always seems to get a couple offensive boards, too. His anticipation is top notch, and if the shooting from last night becomes a staple, the rest of the ACC can kiss the conference goodbye.

Knowlan Springs: A. Player of the Year. Not just ACC, but nationally. Look, as the time gets closer, I'll do a full-on investigation of the stats between he and Jared Sullinger and Jimmer Fredette and Harrison Barnes (stifled laugh), but I don't see how you can possibly look at anybody else right now. Forget the fact that he leads the ACC in scoring and assists, which is fucking insane when you think about it. But leave that aside; he had to switch positions! One of the best players in the country went down, and he had to switch from shooting guard to point guard and lead the re-definition of an elite team. It took him all of two games to get it down, and now he's dominating on a consistent basis. He has meant literally everything to this team. Our success starts and ends with Nolan, and he's been fantastic.

Let me put it this way: if the Mormon gets Player of the Year because he's white and takes 80 shots a game in a shitty conference that doesn't play defense, I will be pissed.

Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly and Singler hit the big shots that brought BC to its knees, but Nolan's constant forays into the middle weakened the defense and made it all possible. If we compare it boxing, his play was the continual body blows that weakened the other guy's mid-section. Eventually, a boxer that takes enough shots to the stomach starts to lean forward unconsciously, moving his gut farther away from the next punch. But it brings his head into range, and that's when you ring his bell. Nolan's almost-unabated driving made the BC defense sag, and it let the others deliver the kill shot.

Part of the reason it was all possible is because BC doesn't have many competent bigs. Other teams, like Florida State, could live with Nolan driving because they'd have tall, athletic interior guys who could block his shot. The defense wouldn't have to sag, and the ensuing threes would be contested rather than wide open. And that's why you don't beat Duke with guards. Offensively and defensively, it takes size.

The White Raven: A. He continues to be great. What would you think if I told you even three weeks ago that by the end of January, he and Seth Curry would both be getting 30 minutes per game? YOU'D PROBABLY PUNCH ME RIGHT IN THE FACE! And I'd deserve it for making outrageous claims.

At one point last night, Kelly was like 5 baskets from setting an NCAA record for most consecutive shots made. That's incredible. He lost it on a put-back that rolled off the rim, but he finished at 6-9 for 14 points. You really cannot expect any more from Kelly; he's playing perfectly for who he is. The development says a lot for his work ethic and intelligence, and he's elevated Duke to a different level over the last four games. I love him. He won't see quite as much playing time when the opponent has more size, since he's not quite strong enough underneath to handle the really good power forwards, but he's become an excellent compromise between size and skill for a team that often can't afford two Plumlees clogging up the offense at the same time. If he could penetrate and use his quickness to get by slower-footed big men, he could even overcome his limited strength, but I think we're still a year away in that regard.

Plumdog Billionaire B. And that's a solid B. He was strong on the boards (12 in all), he had maybe two good post moves, and he was pretty smart with the ball. This isn't the first time we've seen him thrive against smaller teams. If he can use the momentum and confidence of last night to hit the boards hard against guys his own size, we'll really have something. But for today, I can be positive. In his 23 minutes of playing time, he performed well. I'd like to see him move his feet quicker when he's forced to guard someone on the perimeter, and I'd really like if he stopped getting out of position going for stupid steals on ill-advised double teams. But any progress with the big man is good progress.

PlumbleBee the Lesser: C. Of all the things I don't like about Miles, I think it's the stupid fouls that aggravate me most. He is the king of slapping a guy ineffectually when he already has an easy lay-up, or going for a stupid steal in the open court against a guy about eight times quicker and bumping him hard with a hip. He's full of useless rhythm-stoppers that take a team out of its flow. To give credit where it's due, he had four nice steals in his 14 minutes. But 3 fouls in that same amount of time doesn't help us at all.

Boom Radley: B. The usual big shots at the big moments fell, and he played a pretty consistent game on defense. I'm maybe slightly worried about his shooting, though, and an emerging habit of forcing his offense. The tricky thing about Singler is that for all his smarts and work ethic and talent, he's not quick enough to create his own shot against good defenders. That's why I never really bought into the Player of the Year talk before the season started. Since ACC play started in January, he's had a few games like last night, where he was 5-14; 5-15 against Miami, 5-18 against UAB, 6-16 against FSU, 6-18 against N.C. State. Now, please bear in mind that I'm cherry-picking his worst performances, but his field goal percentage in those five games is .333. Not great. And that's using 5 of his 7 January games, so we're talking about a pretty solid majority.

I don't know exactly what I'm saying. I think, basically, we have to live with Singler's style to reap the benefits of his pressure play and the occasional hot all-around game. But I'm seeing a lot of forced possessions in the interim, and I wish there was a better way to get him in the rhythm of the offense.

Young Threezy: C. This is a huge downer. I don't know what's happening between he and Coach K, and I really wish I did. The way he started the season was so promising, and now he's getting ten minutes per game and taking one shot. That stinks. There's something going on, but we're in the dark. Every Duke fan I've talked to feels a little down about the disappearance of Baby Doc. It's the one black mark on last night's win.

Team Defense: A-. Very nice. I guess Reggie Jackson was playing with the flu, so he may have been limited, but we defended the three pretty well against a team that can really shoot, and we shut down the back door stuff by the second half. We also managed to force 13 turnovers, and it would have been more if Coach K didn't go into a stall with 8 minutes left. A solid performance all around against a team missing the main size elements that give Duke nightmares.

You may have noticed no Pick 6 today. With the Duke game happening on a Thursday, I wanted some time to expound on the subject, and instead of relegating them to second-tier status, I'll put it up tomorrow morning.

Duke eyes are smiling. See you all tomorrow.


  1. You know you're not a true Moody Blue when a solid detailed player grade session after I guess like a big win instead of Pick Six makes it feel like an un-Friday.

    I am like embarrassingly despondent right now. My Fridays need a Dylan and Dad convo otherwise, what is the point?

  2. As a teaser for tomorrow, Carrie and Jill are back, and you'll learn which NFL player and coach Carrie would have consensual sex with. Hint: it's like the very last people you would expect. Until I just said that.


  3. I may becoming a Mildly Moody Blue a little bit though, because I checked the box scores this morning from the game (mostly to see how off my Hot Potato pick was) and got SUPER excited to see how well Blog Namesake had done. I felt like a fan, but I'm still really not.

  4. Don't know if you missed my comment yesterday about Dawkins, but he's not getting any PT because he isn't hitting any threes. He's now hitting 27% of his 3-point attempts in conference games. He's hit 54% in non-conference games.

    70% of all his shots are 3-pointers, so if he isn't hitting those he's not going to get much PT.

  5. i've gotta jump in here to disagree with Nasty. coach k never (okay, rarely) benches people because they're not shooting well. he's a huge proponent of letting shooters work their way out of slumps. what he will nearly always bench guys for is not playing strong enough D. and when you compound that by not having a great attitude, you really won't get much PT.

    i wouldn't profess to know everything that could be going on behind the scenes, but i do know what i've seen. in the wake game, he started the second half, he gave up a 3 on defense and coach k immediately sent ty to the scorer's table. dre stomped out of the game, went and sat all the way at the end by KI, tossed the towel that was handed to him, and proceeded to glower and not cheer for his teammates for about the next 7-8 minutes of playing time. (c'mon, it was the wake game... i had plenty of time to watch dre in the background.)

    as i predicted on twitter at the time, coach never put him back in the game. he got some time last night, and then got yanked again. (i didn't catch anything specific, but i'm betting his defense was the culprit again.) we don't get to see much of what goes on with the bench with games in cameron, but i hope dre didn't react the same way to being pulled off the court.

    i adore dre. he's easily been my favorite player this year. but he's gotta get out of his own head and embrace the team concepts (in terms of D and attitude), or he and his sweet shot will not see much daylight.

  6. You're right Lara, I doubt his poor shooting is the only thing keeping him out of the game.

    I brought it up yesterday because I'd like to hear some opinions on why he's struggled so much in conference play.

    He was just 26% on threes in ACC play last season, and 42% in non-conference games.

    Is it just small sample-size weirdness or is there another reason for his poor shooting in ACC games?

  7. Hey Nasty, I actually didn't see that post yesterday, but the sample size is WAY too small to account for why Coach K is benching him. If you take away his worst performance in ACC play (a weird 1-8 against FSU), that 27% goes up to 37%. If you take away N.C. State, 43%. Obviously he's struggling behind the arc, but it's not so blatant that Coach K would bench him for it.

    In terms of WHY he's shooting poorly in the ACC, who knows. Last year's excuse was the car crash that killed his sister and injured his mother in early December. In general, though, the teams you play in the ACC are better than the vast majority of early opponents. Everyone is going to struggle a bit more against better defense. And remember, Dawkins just turned 19 before the season began. he left high school early to play for Duke. He's very young, and his strength and stamina may not be where it should be. The last thing that's probably contributing is the hit to his confidence. Struggles beget more struggles, especially for a shooter, and it can't help knowing that Coach K's hook is very quick.

    Lara's story seems to show that there might be an attitude problem on his part as well. That's a far more likely reason for being benched. Coach K isn't the kind of guy to tolerate dissent, and even though bad attitudes aren't something new in the history of Duke, bad attitudes plus a perceived poor work ethic are killer.

    Anyway, the short answer is I don't know why he's not shooting well, but we can guess pretty accurately. And the reason he's being benched is mostly unrelated.


  8. Actually, let me go ahead and defend myself. Dawkins isn't a great defender, he doesn't rebound, he doesn't attract great defenders, and he doesn't do anything to get to the foul line or get opponents in foul trouble. He shoots threes. If he isn't shooting well, he really can't help the team, and shouldn't be getting a lot of minutes.

    I'm betting that most of the guys that Coach K let shoot their way out of slumps were far more versatile than Dawkins is right now.

    I hope he gets better. He was my 2nd favorite Dukie to watch after Kyrie, but right now he really isn't bringing anything to the table.

  9. Last year you were right about Jon Scheyer and this year you are right about Nolan Smith. You are a shining light of brilliance.

  10. Unedited facebook conversation from over a year ago when I picked Ryan Kelly as my favorite. Shane picked Mason Plumlee......

    February 6, 2010
    Chris W: I bet you're a fan of Brian Zoubek, aren't you?

    Michael L: Now that McClure is gone, I've decided to adopt Ryan Kelly as my favorite. As with all my choices, they are hard to love but try very hard.

    Chris W: All of them except Casey Sanders. I don't think dropping the ball off your foot out of bounds every time you touch it equates to trying very hard.

    Jonathan R: How could you not like Casey though?

    Shane R: Great choice, Mike, at least using those criteria. I personally love guys who are thoroughly unlikeable, cocky, and not good. Mason Plumlee is my guy!

    Michael L: I will not stand for any bad mouthing of Casey "Teddy Bear" Sanders. Shane, I apologize for not making a Seth Curry Will Save Us All sign at the game

  11. Also, I don't know how long a year is