Duke starts off 1-0 with an impressive offensive display
NOV 08, 2013 10:41p ET
This is hardly breaking news to anyone, but it should be. Because Duke -- which moved to 1-0 on Friday night with an season-opening win over Davidson, 111-77 -- could be scary good.
Duke shot 70.4 percent for the game. For. The. Game. Against a Bob McKillop-coached Davidson team. He's one of the best, and most underrated, head coaches in the country. Duke is just really, really good offensively. Four different Blue Devils had 20 or more points, and Duke had 16 assists to four turnovers.
Again, this wasn't against a lower-tier Division-I team that a team like Duke should blow out. Davidson is a legitimate program. But there were some more definitive takeaways aside from "Duke is good" in this edition of "Three Things":
1. If you appreciate good basketball on any level, you will love watching the way Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski uses his two best players
He's the all-time winningest coach in college basketball for plenty of reasons. And one of those reasons is that when he gets elite-level pieces like freshman Jabari Parker and sophomore Rodney Hood, he knows how to use them.
Krzyzewski makes no secret of it, either. Last year, he said before the season that his offense would go through center Mason Plumlee. It did. This year, he said his offense would go through Parker and Hood. And it has.
Sometimes, one of them would initiate the offense, or start the break, or drive to the basket from the elbow. Krzyzewski gave both Hood and Parker plenty of sets where they were at the elbow in isolation, daring the Davidson defenders to play off their teammates, who they would then find for a 3-pointer.
"Spacing is always important. We have guys out there that can hit a three, so you can't just play off and it kind of isolates those guys," Krzyzewski said. "We try to put those two guys in different spots on the court where they can use their offensive abilities and not just call a play, but call a set and let them get it and then they go to work in there. They'll pass the ball, too."
Or -- and this happened more often -- they would drive. Sometimes they would drive to pass, sometimes they would drive to finish and sometimes they would just drive and see what happened. But the two combined to shoot 17-of-20 from the floor and 5-of-8 from the foul line, scoring 22 points each.
Hood's contributions seemed quieter, but upon a closer look, they were just as important. He missed one shot all night, and the one shot he did miss he retrieved the offensive rebound and scored. He also added nine rebounds, one assist, one steal and two blocks in 33 minutes. He's as smooth a finisher as you will see at this level around the rim.
"I think early, when we went to a couple of isolations for me and Jabari on the elbow, we got to get in the lane and kick to shooters or get in the lane or score for ourselves," Hood said. "We just moved the ball and we weren't stagnant. Coming out in transition, we were running and we got in the offense quick rather than standing and looking at everybody."
And if they charted assists like they do in hockey -- the pass that leads to the pass that leads to the goal -- both Parker and Hood would have had at least four or five more each.
Parker was 8-of-10 from the floor and posted his 22 points in just 23 minutes (he got in foul trouble early in the second half).
"I thought Jabari played great tonight," Krzyzewski said.
Tough to argue with that.
2. The offense, as a result, is a lot more free
Last year's Duke team featured a more traditional lineup and was structured to get the ball down low to Plumlee operating as a traditional big. This year, almost any Duke player can get the Blue Devils into their offensive set, and they rely a lot more on motion and ball movement to keep the defense moving rather than letting Plumlee post up inside.
Oh, and it's a lot more difficult to stop.
Duke had some trouble with Drury, a Division II national champion, during the exhibition season. Krzyzewski was not happy with their effort in that game, and the Blue Devils really concentrated on trying to get chemistry with each other and learn to play with each other.
"We changed a lot of habits," Hood said. "Offensively, we were sharp in all our moves. We moved together. We scored together. We passed, made good passes, and we shot with confidence this game. It was a great week of preparation."
And it's letting some of Duke's secondary players stand out as well. Sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon scored 20 points and was wide open for quite a few 3-pointers (he made 3-of-4). The Blue Devils ran some sets for him later in the game as well.
Junior point guard Quinn Cook finished with 21 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go with eight assists and no turnovers. Cook has always thrived in a more fast-paced setting, but he's also always done better when he's operating on instinct. This kind of an offense -- read and react -- is more like that.
"(Krzyzewski) gives me the freedom to shoot," Cook, who shot 3-of-5 from beyond the arc, said. "I'm confident, he's confident and my team is confident in my jump-shooting ability and me play-making and get to the rack. A lot of times, they stay home on my teammates so I can just go in for a lay-up. I just let the game come to me."
3. The "new rules" (or, as some would tell you, a more correct and consistent application of the rules) mean that Duke will shoot a lot of free throws
It also means that this Duke team needs to stop fouling so much.
But the Blue Devils can drive and draw contact as well as any Duke team in the last 10 years or so. There aren't going to be many teams with athletic enough personnel to stop them. Duke was 22-of-32 from the foul line against Davidson and drew 23 fouls.
However, Duke committed 21 fouls of its own, and that's going to be an issue from time to time.
Duke is plenty deep, obviously, but forward Amile Jefferson found himself in foul trouble early and forced Krzyzewski to go small. Krzyzewski will likely continue to experiment with a smaller lineup like that as Jefferson has shown a propensity to get silly reach-in fouls, even last year.
"Just really depended on how Amile was playing. If he wasn't in foul trouble and playing well, then we wouldn't have gone to it because he can defend a perimeter guy," Krzyzewski said. "We'll play with Rodney and Jabari at the so-called 4 and 5 at times, depending on what the other team's doing."
And it's still a general adjustment to the new rules, which call for whistling more contact fouls on the perimeter and change the way the block/charge is called. Duke attempted to take two charges in the game, and both were whistled as blocks. Jefferson, Parker and forward Josh Hairston all ended the game with three or more fouls.
So it's a work in progress to get used to it, but Cook, who used to be guilty of plenty of the silly reach-ins, finished with just one foul.
"Countdown to Craziness was the first time we got to play with officials, and we saw how closely called our two exhibitions games were, so we knew -- especially the first NCAA game, all the rule changes -- we definitely knew there were going to be some changes," Cook said. "But I think we adjusted well."
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