We really feel lucky to have three people who have gone to games in Japan
and sent us reports. We're not sure, but we think we're the best-represented
publication at the games. This report is from our pal Henry Hirose,
statistical master, critical cultural thinker, and all-round good guy. Thanks
Henry! You guys please remember, whenever anyone sends us something interesting
to post, a) we really appreciate it, and b) it really flatters the whole
colonial animal. That would be all of us. So feel free to send whatever,
On 8/11, I attended the semifinals of the World Basketball Championship for
Young Men in the Saitama Super Arena. A member of the Duke alum group in
Tokyo, still a rather informal affair, sent out a notice to club members
calling for a small get together prior to the meeting. In the event, it was
small. Two people showed up for it: He (Ken) and myself.
Ken is Duke '97 and was a member of the band for three years. He said that
he was there for the four years that we were bad. I said that it could have
been worse as John Feinstein was there for the worst four years in Duke
history graduating in 1977. We sat in the best seats we could find in the
unreserved seating section, around row 12 little to the right of midcourt
opposite the benches and the press section. I knew that at least another
member of the alum club, Mark, Duke '84, would be there but I couldn't reach him with his cell phone.This being FIBA basketball, the rules were international. This was the year
of the quadrilenial rules changes and I was told that they introduced games
of four 10 minute quarters. The lane was trapezoidal, shot clock was 24
seconds, and the three point arc was somewhere in between where it would be
in the NBA and college. Free throws are taken after the fourth foul in
We got there in time to see the second half of the first semifinals, Croatia
vs. the Dominican Republic. The Croatians played the European style of
three point barrages and the Dominicans went inside a lot. The Croatians
pulled away in the third quarter with a series of deadly treys. This looked
like an unbalanced team until they proved that they could also go inside in
the next quarter. The Dominicans, perhaps being in the same hemisphere as
the NBA, showed their propensity for flashiness, with things like cute
behind the back and no look passes that got lost as often as they worked.
As it looked certain that the Croatians would advance, I wasn't too
comfortable playing them if we did meet them in the finals.
In the first half of our game, the game seesawed with no team taking big
leads. The dominant theme of the game became clear from the first quarter:
The Argentines were excellent from the perimeter while the Americans could
score inside. This also meant that we couldn't buy a decent perimeter
basket. Another factor also became clear in quarter one: This game belonged
to Boozer. He had 10 points already by the end of the quarter, out of our
26. The Argentines kept on finding the open man on the perimeter while our
outside shots weren't going down. Nick Collison was taken out of
effectiveness when he picked up his second personal in the quarter. This
continued in the second quarter as the Argentines got in some nifty entry
passes into their interior players. With 1:57 to go until halftime and the
score at 40-36, Duke players had 50% of the offense with 14 for Boozer and 6
for Duhon. The Argentines came back at halftime to tie the score at 45 all
by which time Boozer had picked up one more point.
During the first half, we had noticed a Duke banner behind our basket. At
halftime we went to see who it was. They were a Japanese couple, Fuqua
grads from the mid 90's. The Duke banner also brought Mark to the spot. He
said he got a seat in the sponsors' section, just two rows behind the Duke
bench so we followed him to these seats for the second half.
In the second half, Duhon got the first, and only, American trey for the
entire game at the three minute mark. We would end the game shooting only 1
for 11 in treys. By the end of the third quarter, the Duke duo had upped
their totals to 36 points, 27 for Boozer and 9 for Duhon out of our 69.
Duhon, pulling a Bobby Hurley, played 38 minutes in the game his lone
breather coming in half 1. His fatigue was plain to see down the stretch as
the Argentines picked him off. But still, he lead all American players with
12 assists to his 5 TOs for an A/TO ratio of 2.4. Alas, the Duke players
had done most of their scoring for the game. Boozer also picked up his 3rd
foul during the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, even though our treys weren't falling, we started to
get good shots from our guards. We used zone defenses for just short
periods including once in this quarter. I questioned their use against a
perimeter shooting team. But there is of course a reason why Boeheim, and
not myself, is coaching the team as the different look threw off the
Argentines and they went scoreless in that possession. Even though they weren't scoring, our Duke players showed their contribution again and again.
In one sequence, Duhon stole the ball and made an outlet pass for a jam by
Bell (?). At the 5 minute mark, our starting five is back in while our lead
stood comfortably at 11. They played out the rest of the game.
I saw one of the rarest calls in basketball that I had yet to see: A
freethrow goaltending call. An Argentine player was whistled for touching
the ball in a freethrow while it was still touching the rim. With 3
minutes, it looked like the game was in the bag and I started to think of
the Croatians. But as the seconds ticked off to the minute mark, the
Argentines stepped up their defense level several notches. They knocked the
ball out of bounds on our two consecutive inbounds plays. Then they hit
gold as they double teamed Duhon in the backcourt and stole the ball twice
in a row. It was clear that Duhon was tired and we weren't coming back to
help him. They hit a trey and make another steal with 37 seconds remaining.
All of a sudden, it was a close game with our lead down to 91-90.
Down at the other end, Butler is fouled and shot two. He missed them both
but the man of the evening, Boozer, was there for the offensive rebound.
This was a big play. When he is fouled, he makes them both. When Butler
makes two at the charity stripe, the game is finally decided, the final
margin being 95-90.
The game belonged to Boozer. He scored 29 points and had 9 boards. More
astonishingly, he took 17 of 52 American freethrows and made 15 of 42.
Throughout the game, he could hardly miss when a pass was made to him. He
was 7 of 10 from the floor and shot 88.2% at the line. He made many
important rebounds and was a presence inside in defense as well.
Duhon shared in our general misery from the bonusphere, shooting 1 of 4. To
me, it just looked like a bad night for everybody and not because of stellar
Argentine defense that forced us to shoot 9.1%. OTOH, the Argentine hot
shooting, 40.7%, was often the result of skilled switches, screens, and
passes. They were impressive. Conversely, we need to work on this if we
are to beat Croatia tomorrow, another seemingly excellent bombing team. Due
to the relatively tight rotation, eight players playing over 10 minutes,
Dahntay Jones did not see any playing time.