WHAT JUST HAPPENED?
The Duke Blue Devils beat the Bradley Braves, 83-48. Missing two of their top three players, the Braves couldn’t muster up much competition. However, the 35-point margin does not show the type of effort, or lack thereof, from the Blue Devils, who seemed to be sleeping walking through this one. Of course Duke was without Kyrie Irving and it certainly showed.
THE GAME WAS OVER WHEN…
…Duke couldn’t miss from three at about the 17-minute mark in the second half. Bradley had kept the game close for a while, trailing by only seven with three minutes left in the first half. Duke was able to extend the lead by halftime to 14, but they still weren’t dominating a bad Bradley team. The fact is, outside of Dawkins, they struggled to find their outside shot.
Duke was just 5-17 from three, with Andre Dawkins hitting four of those. However, three minutes into the second half, Singler, Kelly and Curry combined to hit five straight from downtown. The downpour would spark a 21-6 run. With only 13 minutes to play, Duke was now up 29 and the game was over.
WHO DESERVES MAD PROPS?
Andre Dawkins started his first game of the season and he looked like he had been there all season long. He showed no fear launching threes and for a while, he was the only man capable of putting the ball in the basket from more than eight-feet away.
He finished with a career high 28, nailing 10 three-pointers. He’s now shooting 54-percent from three for the season.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT…
…Miles Plumlee, who got the start over Ryan Kelly. We knew it was only a matter of time before the elder Plumlee was inserted back into the starting lineup. He didn’t disappoint. He was a perfect 7-7 from the floor, with almost all those baskets coming from him being in the right spot at the right time. Three times his teammates hit him with an alley-oop.
The reality is, every night he should be in position for some easy buckets. On this team he is clearly the fifth option. It will be his defender who will be leaving him for double teams. There is no reason why he can’t continue to have these kind of nights.
LOSERS NEED LOVE TO:
Walt Lemon Jr. came off the bench to score 14. He did a fine job of penetrating Duke’s defense. He probably could have had more, but missed some open lay ups in the second half.
GOD I LOVE STATS: Duke took a stunning 33 threes, compare to only 27 twos. They were 15-33 from deep and 15-27 from inside.
THREE FROM THE TOP OF THE KEY:
WANTED: POINT GUARD
Obviously we have all gotten the bad news that Kyrie Irving will be out for a while and maybe even out for the season. This is terrible news. Yes Duke is still a good team without him, but there is simply no one on this Duke team who can do what he did.
Last night, Nolan Smith took over the point guard duties. He did a good job. He focused on assists, dishing out 10, but he struggled to find his shot, going 0-8 from the floor.
In the first half though, Duke basically turned themselves into a jump shooting team. Smith simply refused to challenge his defender. When Bradley missed, Duke never pushed it up the floor. Never.
In halftime, Coach K clearly talked about it because in the second half, Nolan started to take it to the hole with some success. The Blue Devils would score 19 more points in the second half.
Having said that, Smith will need to get better if this Duke team wants to end up where they want to end up at the end of the season. Now I know Nolan isn’t the greatest ball handler. I know he doesn’t have an amazing first step. I know he’s not lightening quick. Yet last year, Nolan Smith was the only Duke player who create his own shot. He was the only one who could dribble-drive past his defender and hit one of those amazing floaters. He did it last year, he can do it again this year.
NOT JUST NOLAN
While Nolan Smith may be the most experienced guard on this roster, he can’t be the only one who can penetrate. To replace Irving, both Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins will need to attack the paint. If these guys just settle for jump shots, good defensive teams will camp out on those three-point line.
Dawkins is the more polished player, but the reality is, at 6’1, Curry is the more natural point guard. Over the next few games, my hope is he’ll pass up some open shots and try to work his way inside from time-to-time.
Like I said before, don’t be fooled by Duke’s 35-point win. This team lacked energy and excitement last night. The defense was pretty bad. Bradley got a ton of open looks and lay up opportunities. Luckily for the Blue Devils, Bradley sucks (to put it mildly).
Now I can’t really blame this team for not being 100-percent. They just lost their top player and they are coming off a brutal two-week stretch against top talent and top teams. Even the greatest teams lose motivation against weaker opponents. Let’s just not make a habit out of it.
FINAL DEEP THOUGHTS:
As we all know, the news about Irving his not good. In fact, he said it best himself on twitter:
Situation not looking good and I’m not feeling good…smh worst thing ever
I’m no doctor (and I don’t play one on TV either), but that doesn’t sound good. This Duke team (and the fans who love them) need to prepare for a season without Irving. If he comes back at some point…great.
Without Irving, Duke loses their best player, the ACC’s best player and maybe the nation’s best player. No one on this team can do the things he does.
Now it’s all about adjustments, which is why I’m glad we have Coach K in our corner.
For now, the ball is in Nolan’s hands. He will need to learn to be a point guard, without losing that lethal scoring touch.
The Duke Blue Devils have a fairly easy month ahead of them. They only play three more games until they face Miami at home in January. The goal should be simple…find the new identity on this team.
Let’s see who is going to step up and become a man. Dawkins? He did against Bradley. Curry? He did in the second half. What about Thornton? Here’s your chance kid. Inside, Mason can’t be passive anymore. Miles, no more stupid fouls. Kyle Singler, the cold shooting needs to stop.
Everybody needs to step it up right now.