Thursday, February 5, 2009

Duke fast break stuck in neutral

Aside from its complete lack of preparation for the full-court press, Duke’s most glaring deficiency Wednesday night might have been on the fast break.

In a 74-47 flogging of the Blue Devils at Littlejohn Coliseum, Clemson scored 13 fast-break points. Duke scored two.

If Terrence Oglesby hadn’t missed a layup in the first half and a dunk attempt in the closing minutes, that gap would have been even more pronounced.

The frightening thing for Duke is that Clemson’s transition domination hardly was an aberration. A week earlier, Wake Forest outscored Duke 11-2 on the fast break.

Georgia Tech (15-5) and Florida State (11-10) also have scored more fast-break points than the Blue Devils. That total advantage for Duke’s opponents in ACC road games is a whopping 50-17.

Meanwhile, Duke has outscored every one of its opponents on the fast break at Cameron Indoor Stadium, posting a 53-21 combined advantage at home over Virginia Tech, N.C. State, Maryland and Virginia.

One of two conclusions can be drawn from this. It’s possible the box scores reflect greater excitement on the part of home scorekeepers that makes them more likely to record fast-break points for “their team.”

But that seems unlikely when you consider that scorekeepers at Clemson (18-4) and Georgia Tech (10-6) both recorded more fast-break points for Wake Forest than the home team in the Deacons’ recent trips to those gyms.

It seems more likely that Duke no longer has superior athletes who just overwhelm opponents with their speed. Not long ago, the Blue Devils could turn loose Jay Williams against Chris Hobbs and Ray Henderson and just overwhelm a team like Clemson with pure speed and skill.

Now Duke’s staple is a tough half-court defense that doesn’t lead to fast-break baskets often enough even if it does force turnovers. Point guard Nolan Smith is a strong defender but isn’t particularly good at setting up teammates on the fast break. Forward Gerald Henderson is extremely athletic, but coach Mike Krzyzewski has occasionally questioned some of Henderson’s decisions on the break.

All this does not bode well for Duke when North Carolina visits Cameron on Wednesday in a game that could decide first place in the ACC. The Tar Heels have had their own problems this season, but they still get the ball up the court incredibly quickly with point guard Ty Lawson.

Duke will have to find a way to slow down Lawson. Because as it stands now, the Blue Devils don’t seem capable of finding a gear that will get them up to the Tar Heels’ speed.
- Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

Ken, as a confirmed Tar Heel nut, here is how dook could win.

-- Play zone. Not a passive one, a gambling, aggressive point-zone style. You'll give up the odd 3, but might get TOs for easy buckets while frustrating UNC, which is horrid in mid to late shot clock possessions.

-- Crash the O boards. Too many teams look at UNC's pace and concede offensive rebounding by pulling 3 or 4 back on the shot. A mistake. You can get more possessions by getting boards even at the cost of the odd run-out layup.

-- Screen-and-roll deep. Unless Roy Williams tells his guys to switch everything, the Heels give up far, far too many open looks for 3-balls.

-- Have K get a T. He hasn't used this ploy in a while, but getting teed up early psychologically cowers the refs into swallowing their whistles as dook deploys its hack attack defense.