Game two is in the books for the Duke Men's Basketball team and they come away 2-0 with a 78-66 victory. Here are my random thoughts and observations -
The play of Kelly is most impressive
Ryan Kelly is establishing himself as one of the most well rounded players on the team. Kelly went 9 of 11 today and that translated into 20 points to go with 8 rebounds and a couple of steals. Of all the players, Kelly looks like the most relaxed on the court after two games. Kelly is playing with a lot of confidence and is allowing the game to come to him. If leading by work ethic is important, Kelly could be playing his way towards being named a Duke captain. Remember where you heard that! And that beard!
Worst calls ever?
There were maybe 24 OMG moments in today's game, where the Chinese officiating crew blew calls so bad that a UNC fan would snicker. Seriously, it was incredibly bad in so many ways that they're too numerous to list. The ESPN announcers commented on the situation as did thousands on Twitter. Be it a phantom reach or a physical push of a Duke player out of bounds, this was as big of a homer job as I've ever seen on the hardwood. Duke has won by 13 in both contests. Maybe that's all they will be allowed to win by. The scores are so similar that they seem scripted. The calls also disrupt the flow of the game to the point where it is ugly.
Freshman are freshman
While Austin Rivers led all scorers yesterday, the Duke staff has a lot of video from today to show him a plethora of mistakes. Rivers had 7 turnovers against 1 assist and that is brutal. He also took some ill advised shots going 5-16 from the floor and seemed to lose his concentration. Rivers is an accomplished offensive player who is working on defense and playing without the ball in his hands as was the case his whole high school career. Rivers will be okay, but this just goes to show that freshman, no matter their hype and stature are on a learning curve. Rivers, of course, will be okay, but let's hope he takes better care of the ball in the next two contests. Rivers is averaging 15 ppg after the two contests. Meanwhile, Michael Gbinije and Alex Murphy had similar freshman issues combining for two fouls in the box score. As for Quinn Cook? I think it is obvious that we'd like to see him healthy.
Five players have showed they belong
I spoke of Ryan Kelly and the talented Mr.Rivers but they had help in their wins. Seth Curry is adjusting the the PG spot but has played well and Andre Dawkins has showed he belongs as a starter or in the rotation as well. But today, Miles Plumlee showed great efficiency and I think that these five guys have showed they are the core of this coming seasons team. I expect Mason to join this group but he hasn't really had a great game yet and much is expected out of him this season. It's worth noting that he tied for a team high 3 assists today. I'm not worried about the talented Mason Plumlee but it would be nice to seem him be more effective in the next game.
Defense not bad
Duke has been playing solid defense in their two games and pressure defense meant a mere 3 assists for the China Olympic team. Considering the way the games are being called, it looks as if they'll be solid as ever in this traditional team trait.
Three point shot observation
The verdict is still out on whether the Blue Devils will be a good three point shooting team this season. Today, they went 9 for 27 and four players have launched one from beyond the arc to date.
Spacing could be better
I'm not a high level coach, but from my view the Blue Devils spacing was a bit sketchy. It seemed awkward in some ways and China pushed the play to near the half court line a few times. There were not a lot of balls thrown into the post and part of that was due to the spacing being so far from the basket.
Duke will be well rested for their next game
The teams flight to China was delayed and once there, they have had little rest. With three days before the next game, Duke will watch film and gather their collective legs. A blowout or easy win is possible but the way the games are being called, the third game could really rile those who expect fair officiating. The team will say "It was a hard fought game," but I can say from afar that their should be a technical foul called on the officials. Remember. Coach K has to be a bit careful in so many ways in the Friendship games.
Adversity can be good
The physical play will help Duke prepare for the season as will the bad calls. Let's be real here in that there will be some bad calls in the ACC and on the road this season, but the Duke players will have learned to keep cool. There is nothing like travel to grow a person, especially young men. The guys will come back with a much better and altered perception of life itself.
The bottom line
You cannot judge the 2011-12 team on their China-Dubai trip alone. This journey was to grow players and see what coaches have to work with but plenty of adjustments will be made between now and the start of regular season practice. And Coach K? He's not showing his hand just yet. After the games, the staff will get together and figure out a team identity and style for the coming season. This journey is about more than basketball as well and it is important to see that Duke University is expanding their horizons in many ways.