Saturday, November 29, 2008

Duke 95, Duquesne 72

It took 7 games, but we finally saw this team play to its potential for a "full" game. The 23-point final margin makes this game look deceptively close, and the 3-point second half margin suggests we turned it off in the final period. We didn't. Duke was up 39 twice, and led by at least 30 for about 11 minutes in the second half. Only when the bench guys came in at the end of a game did Duquesne go on a little bit of a ridiculous run, ending on a 19-6 push that made it look moderately respectable. It wasn't - this was a good, old-fashioned beat-down administered at both ends of the court.

First, the offensive end. Duke's offense was clicking on all cylinders. Guys played the drive, draw, and dish extremely well - Duke got into the middle of the lane against Duquesne with ease, drew seemingly the entire team of Dukes to them, and then continually found open men on the wings and in the corners for three, or on rotation down low for easy looks inside. The other thing the Devils did was get out and run. Missed shots, made shots, turnovers - really any excuse to get back up the court in a hurry, the Devils took. Duke had 31 points off of turnovers and 17 points in transition, and everyone got in on the act. Thomas ran the court extremely well - he's learned that if he sprints down court toward the rim, guys are going to make things happen for him. He had several great catches (off of several great passes) that propelled him to an 8-8 day and a career high 21 points.

Jimmy Dykes made a comment during the broadcast that I've heard several fans echo, in some way, that I think shows a fundamental misunderstanding of Duke's offense. He pointed out that Smith's A/TO ratio is less than one, and said that Duke needs more from a point guard than that. I beg to differ (at least in part - cutting down turnovers is always a goal, and Smith does still need to improve in that regard). Duke's offense is simply not dependent on a point guard to create. Rather, we effectively have 4 "point guards" on the court most of the time. Everyone on the wing plus Singler can create off the dribble and off the pass. Yesterday, when Duke assisted on 71.4% of its first half field goals, the assists came from all over - 4 for Singler, 2 for Henderson, 3 for Scheyer and Smith, etc. Simply put, no one is going to put the onus on Smith to do anything more than bring the ball over half court - once we get into the offense, everyone on the wing is equally responsible for creating opportunities for their teammates and themselves.

Second, on defense Duke was disruptive. They forced turnovers (19) and missed shots (41), especially from three, where Duquesne was just 3 of 21. They took the highest scoring team in the A-10 last season and held them under 60 until the final four minutes of the game. Duquesne got very few easy opportunities, and looked constantly out of sync. The only downside was rebounding - Duke got out-positioned by the Dukes on the offensive glass for most of the game, and only barely out-rebounded Duquesne on that end of the court. This is actually an aberrant performance this year - in 5 out of 7 games, Duke's defensive rebounding has been excellent.

Finally, the play of the bench unit at the end of games continues to disappoint. Most notably, they turn the ball over with alarming regularity. Our end-game group (which, in various combinations, has primarily included Paulus, Pocius, Williams, Czyz, and Plumlee) has committed 18 turnovers in fewer than 40 possessions. Essentially every other trip down the court they give the ball away. They're responsible for 17% of the team's turnovers in just 8% of the possessions. It's a group that looks disjointed and plays like it's garbage time (which, admittedly, it is, but I don't recall a bench unit that treated it like garbage time quite the way these guys do). This isn't necessarily something concerning, since if we see Pocius, Williams, Czyz, and Plumlee on the court together, it usually means the lead is big and the time on the clock is small. These lineups are not likely to be playing crunch time minutes (or key minutes of any shape/size). Nonetheless, there's a lot of room for improvement, and I hope as the season goes along we see that unit get tighter with the ball.

Here's the HD Box from the game. As you can see, there's a dramatic +/- difference between starters + Thomas and the other 6 guys.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I left a discussion of the game without registering concern for Nolan's back. He came out of the game after his plus-one with about 17:30 left to play, and received treatment on the bench. Hopefully it's nothing serious and nothing that will keep him from the game against Purdue this week.

Around the ACC

A busy Friday for the conference, and (on balance) a successful one. Florida State picked up a nice win over Cincinnati - despite all their struggles, they're still undefeated, and can stay that way with another solid win over Cal tonight. Wake survived a game UTEP team in a game where the Deacs got absolutely abused on the glass (surprising, with all of Wake's size) and can win the 76 Classic by beating Baylor on Sunday. Virginia fought the good fight at the Carrier Dome, and though they left with a loss, they played a very good Syracuse team very close. And BC looked good in beating UAB to take third place in the PNIT - props to Ty Rice, who had 24 points (all in the second half) and didn't miss a single one of his 5 3-point shots. Clemson and Georgia Tech got wins against lesser competition (although the Jackets again struggled). Only Maryland had a really rough day, as Gonzaga just out-classed them all over the court. Maryland will struggle against teams with size this year, and the Zags have a lot of good size.

Quiet weekend for the conference - today just has the aforementioned FSU game and Miami hosting Stetson, and Sunday finished with UNC and NC St hosting in-state schools and Wake taking on Baylor. November has been a very good month for the conference, and they'll have every opportunity to start December off well during the ACC/Big Televen challenge. After Sunday's games, I'll put up the ACC team and player stats to this point, including the new offensive stats I've been discussing, and we'll look at a couple case studies from the various teams to show whose performance thus far may be deceptively good, and whose may be deceptively less impressive.

1 comment:

Michael said...

The word is that Nolan was having back spasms, and was also having them last week in NYC and they were much worse then than yesterday. Apparently his back was just tweaked after the fall.