It’s a day later, so you will have already read about how Duke had some smoked Duck for a little post Thanksgiving meal. With only a brief recap I’ll get to some more general observations.
In case you were wondering: Kyle Singler is still a really good basketball player. While he hasn’t been statistically dominant the first 5 games, he had a great homecoming game in Portland on Saturday. A large and vocal Duke cheering section watched him tie his career high with 30 points on a sparkling 9-15 from the field, including 5-9 from distance and 7-7 from the line.
On the opening play Duke ran a little curl move for him on the left wing: his pull up jumper was good. Apparently Oregon wasn’t watching on that possession because Duke ran the same thing the next time down, this time Kyle cutting to the basket for an And-One bucket. Overall the Ducks looked like they were not quite ready for the big time billing that the pre-game marketing had built up. (the dual Singler poster/graphics were pretty cool I thought) They had back to back possessions in the early going with very lazy passes that turned into Duke baskets. Oregon was very tight from the field as well - managing only 7 points in the first eleven minutes of the ball game - and finished the first half under 30% from the field. The Ducks did manage to keep the game from getting out of hand by using some changing pressure defenses - most effectively a 3/4 court trap. Until the last few minutes of the first half Duke struggled against that trap, constantly dribbling themselves into trouble instead of passing the ball. Steph Curry seemed to be the only player not flustered with the pressure, but he and Dawkins were 0-fer the first half as Duke held a 15 point margin.
The second half didn’t start well for Duke: 2 straight turnovers sandwiched around two pretty offensive possessions for Oregon (including baby Singler burning big Singler on a back door cut). But instead of going with the smaller lineup that has been our most effective 5, Coach K stuck with the bigger group with Miles Plumlee on floor. Duke went on a run with 4 of 5 trips resulting in made 3 pointers and suddenly they were up by 30. The rules dictate that the final fifteen minutes of game had to still be played, but the game was essentially over at that point. Oregon’s front line did manage to play a bit better down the stretch but it wasn’t enough to make a dent in the lead. And while not as eye-gougingly bad as Kansas State, Oregon missed a lot of freebies as Duke was able to play some good defense from the free throw line for the second straight game. Andre Dawkins continued his solid play of late with 14 points in the second half as he and Curry did their best Cyprus Hill impression (“Word to your Moms, I came to drop bombs”) as Duke cruised to victory.
Now for the juicy game notes and observations:
- Turnovers were once again an issue for Duke. Despite 18 points, 6 boards and 5 assists, Nolan Smith again had a high turnover game as he was charged with 6. Overall the 19 team turnovers are a bit troubling, but Duke was able to off-set that by being +15 on the boards for the game (a number that has more often been in the minus category). You wouldn’t expect a stocked back-court team like we have to struggle against full court pressure, but we sure did in the first half. Duke figured it out eventually by slowing down and swinging the ball side to side until a cutter could be found. I don’t expect many teams to try and press us.
- Mason Plumlee continues to assert himself on both ends of the court. He was credited with 4 blocks but 2 more were not called because of fouls on other Duke players - one where he was so high in the air he blocked the ball with his tricep. But someone needs to help that boy with his free throw shooting. His adventures from 15 feet continued this game, though thankfully he didn’t air-ball another one as he did against K-State. FT consistency is the one big hurdle I see for him being a super star. He and John Henson need to find a good sports shrink/visualization coach somewhere in the Triangle.
- Nice to see Miles’ effort get rewarded with some extra PT against the Ducks. His half court alley-oop from Nolan was highlight-reel athleticism on display. Both he and his brother had double digit rebounds - which is what we need from them. And unlike his baby brother, Miles looks comfortable from the free throw line. Now if we can just get him to stop constantly reaching so blatantly over the back on rebounds where he is clearly not in position…
- Duke’s big-man defense is not so good. I love the savvy of Ryan Kelley’s game, but he is a bit slow of foot which seems to make him especially vulnerable to getting screened. And unfortunately neither of the Brothers Plumlee have the kind of global defensive awareness to pick up the slack and switch. Something Zoubs and Lance Thomas demonstrated so well last season. Also both Plumlees tend to gamble too often going for steals, which results in them being out of position. I’d like to see them do more 1/2 denial and stay behind their man. Both are athletic enough to challenge shots from a face up stance.
- Did anyone else watching the broadcast think anything suspicious about the eye-candy sideline reporter? She seemed to be slurring and staggering enough in her opening that I would have had evidence to give her a field sobriety test. Maybe she was just REALLY nervous. It was weird. Even my wife commented on it.
- In a game that was not very competitive for the most part, I do wish we could have seen some more time for some of the reserves. No point in raving about our deep bench when Hairston and Thornton only get 5 minutes - most of it garbage time. Curry also looked a little deflated/out of sorts in this game. Not great body language on the bench and rushing to shoot when he was on the floor.