Duke loss shouldn't mark start of a spiral
Posted January 12, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — The first thing that stands out in the postgame discussion of NC State’s 84-76 win over Duke is that the Blue Devils lost their first game of the year and were without senior Ryan Kelly.
Kelly had a foot injury that kept him out of the ACC and NCAA tournament last year. The ultimate effect then was the same as it was on Saturday: a Duke loss. The Blue Devils also saw Seth Curry leave the game with a left leg injury and while he returned to the bench, he did not get back into the game. That left Mike Krzyzewski with little long-range options to try and come back against the 20th ranked team in the nation.
Before everyone heads to the bridge thinking that this is the way the Blue Devils season is going to go, slow down.
What Saturday was for Duke when looking at the game beyond the W-L tally was their first real road game of the season against a top 25 team – and yes they were shorthanded after losing Kelly for an indefinite amount of time.
Duke wasn’t blown out, but when the Devils needed a big shot, there were fewer options to turn to. They were a different team than the one that raced out to a 15-0 start and the No. 1 ranking in the country. This was a team with fewer offensive options and that takes Duke out of a lot of the sets that get looks for Mason Plumlee or Curry.
The Duke coaching staff said it all week long that they would be a different team without the 6-foot-11 Kelly. Saturday afternoon at PNC arena, Duke was a different team.
They controlled and crashed the offensive glass in the first half with highly-touted but little-used freshman Amile Jefferson providing an offensive spark before fouling out. Jefferon’s offensive output was more due to hustle and rebounding, not shooting, which is what Duke has been built on over the years. What became clear as the game wore on is Duke missed Kelly’s ability from long distance and he is such a tough match-up for teams. Duke wasn’t able to draw players like CJ Leslie out from the basket to where he would have had to guard Kelly. That inevitably clogged the paint for Plumlee.
Curry’s latest injury will be one to watch moving forward. The senior guard had already been playing through a right leg injury before his left leg folded under him while slipping on the PNC Arena floor Saturday. Curry had 22 points in the losing effort and without Kelly he is the only consistent three-point shooter.
Rasheed Sulaimon and Quinn Cook aren’t the snipers from long distance that the opposition needs to worry about and if Curry is down for any amount of time, the Devils offense will look very different.
Duke played its typical brand of defense and had a chance to remain unbeaten because of that. But with the offense limited, that wasn’t enough to prevent a first defeat.
What can Duke take out of the loss without thinking the sky is falling?
Jefferson showed he can handle an expanded role, but he will have to figure a way to defend against more physical players.
Duke hit the offensive boards hard and the way the ACC is set up this year, which will be a huge key with a lack of outside shooting.
NC State handed a Duke team with injuries to two senior leaders a road loss. If this was another team, it could be enough to send them into the ditch, but for Duke, while there are repairs that need to be made, it doesn’t seem like they will go off the track. They have just come back to the pack.