The Devils went down to Tallahassee and did what they have become accustomed
to on the road in the ACC, namely, win. This is the 20th straight road win for
Duke in the conference. They pretty thoroughly dominated Florida State, picking
their pockets, running textbook breaks, shooting brilliantly. And yet...and
It was a great performance in many respects, but as in the Stanford game, and
arguably in the A&T game, Duke was in a position to completely throttle the
opponent, and didn't quite do it. This cost them against Stanford, but A&T
and FSU are too weak to take full advantage of the opportunity Duke afforded
them, small window though it was.
The question at this point for Duke isn't depth, not really. The question is
more about killer instinct. They have shown it at times this season - the second
Temple game, certainly Michigan - but at other times they haven't. Think of the
first Temple game and of course Stanford (to be fair, Duke did put Temple away,
but as we learned later, it should never have gotten to that point).
That's not to knock the win. It was a solid performance, and in spots
breathtakingly brilliant, particularly in our favorite aspect of the game,
passing. There were two or three breaks which were simply gorgeous, including
one which started with a two hand overhead outlet pass by Boozer (old school -
very cool, Carlos) to Williams, who hit Dunleavy with an equally brilliant pass
for a layup. The ball barely touched the floor. There was another break which
would have warmed Red Auerbach's heart.
And the defense at times was stunning. Battier is always good, always highly
effective, but a lot of what he does doesn't dazzle simply because it's a result
of his outthinking his opponent and moving into position to ward off a potential
pass, shot, or drive, and you don't really notice that, not unless he's covering
your back. Tonight he had some spectacular blocks which were truly amazing. And
Dunleavy's defense was superb. Shoot, the whole team was. At times, though, it
seemed to us, particularly in the second half, that they let Florida State off
the hook, and let them get their confidence back a little bit. Call us cruel,
but when you have a team down, we say kick them until they can't fight back at
If you ask us, what we're seeing is something you don't often see in Duke
basketball: a particular player being missed when they have left. Typically,
Duke manages to shift responsibilities and to overlap skills enough to
compensate for whoever has left. That's why when Bobby Hurley graduates, they
get back to the Final Four. When Johnny Dawkins graduates, Quin Snyder ably
takes over the running of the offense. When Danny Ferry leaves, Christian
Laettner is ready to lead. Robert Brickey moves into center after Bilas leaves.
Brand leaves and Battier and C-well take over some of his duties.
This year, on a tactical level, that has all worked out great. Nate James and
Mike Dunleavy and Chris Duhon bring enough to the court to overcome the talents
Chris Carrawell took with him. There's just one that hasn't been clearly
replaced, and that's the killer instinct that C-well had.
We may be wrong, and maybe it has been, maybe we're really misreading the
team. Wouldn't be the first time. And as we caution over-concerned fans from
time to time, we're not in the practices, we don't know what Krzyzewski and his
staff deal with. You can't say how one player's breakup with a girlfriend
affects his game, or how a parent-child relationship - the Burgesses for example
- affect a kid's game. There's no way to know from our distance how the
emotional nuances of a team affect the performance, and there's really not much
room for us to judge player's character, other than to say they all seem like
outstanding young men and guys we're proud to have represent us.
Nonetheless, we have a sneaking suspicion that the challenge which has
emerged for the coaching staff isn't depth or anything like that, particularly
not since no one really gets more than 32-33 minutes a game. Rather, it's how to
replace the intangibles which Carrawell took with him. It's a fine challenge for
a coach who prides himself on the psychological aspect of the game, and he has
plenty of time to work on his players. But it may not be an easy challenge
either, because it may require someone to really challenge his perception of
Notes - Boozer is still recovering from his illness....he didn't hit from the
floor but did get eight boards...Matt Christensen had a very solid game off the
bench, his second in a row, and is making an argument for more playing
time...that's contingent on controlling his fouls....Duhon continues to pass
brilliantly, getting 6 assists in 27 minutes....he also continues to not shoot
very well, though his defense is still at a very high level...Nate James also
had a pretty solid game, particularly on the offensive boards....even through TV
there was a perceptible gloom after FSU's big loss last night to Oklahoma...