Duke in the NBA: Irving says Earth is flat, Cook signs NBA contract

Duke in the NBA: Irving says Earth is flat, Cook signs NBA contract

A few former Blue Devils were busy during All-Star Weekend and are now ready for the stretch run of the regular season.

Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers

Irving made headlines this past week not for his play on the court during the NBA All-Star Weekend, but rather for his confident assertion that the Earth, contrary to popular belief, is flat. The former lottery pick guard first spoke up about the issue during an interview on the podcast "Road Trippin' with RJ & Channing," and then repeated his claim on ESPN later in the week. 

Chronicle pregame: Duke men's basketball vs. Miami

Chronicle pregame: Duke men's basketball vs. Miami

The Chronicle's Amrith Ramkumar and Hank Tucker look ahead to the Blue Devils' rematch with Miami on the road Saturday afternoon, with Duke looking to bounce back from a loss at Syracuse that snapped its seven-game winning streak.

0:40—How the Hurricanes have won three games in a row even without star guard Ja'Quan Newton, who will return from suspension Saturday

1:54—Whether the Blue Devils might go back to the defensive-minded lineup that helped them rally from an 11-point halftime deficit against Miami a month ago

2:23—What Marques Bolden's role could be Saturday after the freshman big man did not get off the bench Wednesday Read more »

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. Miami

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. Miami

After a loss at the buzzer to Syracuse Wednesday, Duke will look to get back on track with a win at Miami Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Watsco Center. The last time these two teams met Jan. 21, Duke overcame a daunting 11-point deficit at the half to win by 12, led by a clutch performance by Matt Jones. However, Miami enters the matchup hot, riding a three-game winning streak and coming off a thrilling overtime victory at No. 18 Virginia Monday. Here are three keys to the game for the Blue Devils to get back to their winning ways:

Grayson Allen Finds His Form

Following a gutty performance against North Carolina, scoring 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting to lead Duke to victory, Grayson Allen has gone cold of late. The junior guard is averaging only 8.0 points per contest during the last four games, shooting a dismal a 22.5 percent from the field and 25.9 percent from behind the arc during that span. 

Although Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum have done a tremendous job shouldering the load, the Blue Devils are at their best when all three primary scorers are firing on all cylinders. If Allen can return to hitting shots, Duke will be very difficult to defend and there will be a plethora of exploitable mismatches for all three players. Allen needs to get into a groove before March, or else Duke may be looking at an early exit in the Big Dance.

Win the Battle of the Boards

Duke has been up and down lately with its rebounding. During their last eight games, the Blue Devils held the advantage in four of them, and if their shooting continues to be inconsistent, rebounding and second-chance points will be the key to staying in the game. Despite shooting only 39.1 percent from the field and 30.3 percent from downtown, Duke led for most of the game against Syracuse thanks to superb offensive rebounding, pulling down 16 offensive boards and scoring 17 second-chance points. Read more »

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Miami

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Miami

After its first loss in nearly a month Wednesday at Syracuse, Duke will hope to get back on track on the road Saturday afternoon against Miami. The Hurricanes enter the game on a three-game winning streak and gave the Blue Devils all they could handle at Cameron Indoor Stadium a month ago before losing by 12. The Blue Zone takes a look at a player from each team who could be the difference-maker in the game:

Duke: Guard Grayson Allen

After a 25-point performance on 7-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc against North Carolina Feb. 9, it seemed as though Allen had finally returned to the level of play that made him an All-American last year. That game marked the third consecutive 20-point outing for Allen, who was finally finding his stroke from the perimeter after he shot better than 40 percent from deep last season.

But since then, the tides have turned once again for Allen. During the Blue Devils’ last four contests, the junior guard has aggravated a toe injury from earlier this season and has completely lost his touch from the field. Allen is averaging just eight points a contest and converting on a mere 22.5 percent of his shot attempts during that span. Read more »

Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball vs. Syracuse

Beyond the arc: Duke men's basketball vs. Syracuse

John Gillon's prayer at the buzzer was answered with a deep 3-pointer off the backboard to lift Syracuse past Duke 78-75 at the Carrier Dome Wednesday. The Blue Devils' seven-game winning streak ended in dramatic fashion, as Duke and the Orange added another chapter to the string of instant classics the two teams have played in recent years.

Revisiting the three keys to the game

  • Find the open 3: The Blue Devils were not always patient and disciplined against Syracuse's 2-3 zone, with junior Grayson Allen and sophomore Luke Kennard launching a few rushed shots early in possessions from several feet beyond the 3-point line. Duke wound up shooting just 10-of-33 from downtown—Allen was 1-of-8—though the Blue Devils did move the ball around on occasion for some big shots and finished with 16 assists on their 25 made field goals.
  • Control the tempo from the start: Neither Duke nor the Orange play particularly fast, but Wednesday's game started at a breakneck pace with few stoppages in play in the opening minutes. The Blue Devils soon opened up a double-digit lead when the game slowed down and they could methodically pick apart Syracuse's defense, but the Orange got back into it in the second half behind several quick driving layups in transition from point guard John Gillon.
  • Contain Andrew White III on the perimeter: Duke clearly made it a point of emphasis to take White III out of the game, and its defense succeeded. Syracuse's leading scorer attempted just four shots from the field and scored seven points. But the Blue Devils' tight defense on White III helped each of the Orange's four other starters score in double figures, as Syracuse's role players all rose to the occasion to help their team pull off a critical upset.

Three key stats:

  • Syracuse shoots 70.8 percent from the field in the second half: The Orange were unstoppable in the second half, pouring in 53 points after putting up just 25 before the break. Part of that was Duke's defense softening up, but Syracuse also made several tough shots, including a few midrange fadeaways from freshman Tyus Battle and a pair of shots off the backboard from more than 20 feet out. Everything seemed to fall for the Orange down the stretch, and the Blue Devils just barely couldn't keep up.
  • Duke grabs 16 offensive rebounds: The Blue Devils dominated the glass a year after Syracuse big man Tyler Roberson had his way in the paint with 20 rebounds in Durham. Duke led most of the game despite a field-goal percentage worse than 40 percent thanks to 17 second-chance points. A lot of the Blue Devils' misses from downtown caromed far off the rim, helping guards Allen and Kennard combine for seven offensive rebounds when the ball soared over the heads of the Orange's defenders under the basket.
  • Allen scores just eight points: Duke's junior guard recently aggravated a toe injury he has been dealing with all year and was clearly not himself Wednesday. Allen shot just 2-of-11 from the field and did not make many other meaningful contributions to the box score, finishing with just one rebound and one assist. He was also mired in foul trouble all game, picking up his fourth early in the second half and only playing 29 minutes.

Three key plays: Read more »

Chronicle postgame: Duke men's basketball vs. Syracuse

Chronicle postgame: Duke men's basketball vs. Syracuse

John Gillon's 3-pointer off the glass at the buzzer snapped Duke's seven-game winning streak and lifted Syracuse to a 78-75 victory in front of a home crowd of more than 30,000 at the Carrier Dome. Following the game, The Chronicle's Mitchell Gladstone and Meredith Cash reacted to the wild finish and discussed why the Blue Devils came up short.

0:29—A breakdown of the game's final two minutes

1:16—What happened to Duke's defense in the second half after a strong first half Read more »

Halftime: Duke 33, Syracuse 25

SYRACUSE, N.Y.—The Blue Devils arrived at the Carrier Dome Wednesday looking to extend their ACC-best seven-game win streak to eight.

They are well on their way to doing just that thanks to a double-double effort by freshman Jayson Tatum in the opening 20 minutes.

Sparked by Tatum’s 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting and 10 rebounds, No. 10 Duke leads Syracuse 33-25 at the break. Tatum's jumper has looked smooth for the third straight game, spearheading the Blue Devil offense as Duke held the Orange to 34.8 percent shooting. Sophomore Luke Kennard added nine points, and the Blue Devils capitalized on a Syracuse field goal drought lasting more than seven minutes in the middle of the period to take control.

Duke looked to break down Syracuse’s 2-3 zone early on by switching up its typical floor spacing. Kennard floated in the middle of the zone, and Tatum, junior Grayson Allen and senior captain Matt Jones rotated around the perimeter. Read more »

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. Syracuse

Key three: Duke men's basketball vs. Syracuse

In the midst of a seven-game conference winning streak, the Blue Devils will look to tally their fourth ACC road win Wednesday night at 7 p.m. against Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. All of Duke’s seven straight wins have been decided by 10 points or less, and four of the Blue Devils' five matchups against the Orange in the last three years have been decided by single digits. Syracuse enters Wednesday’s contest on a three-game losing streak, hoping to return to the form that fueled to a four-game conference win streak earlier in the year. Here are three keys to the game for the Blue Devils:

Find the open 3

The Orange and head coach Jim Boeheim boast a notorious 2-3 zone defense, an uncommon staple in the ACC. In order to break down Syracuse’s defense, the Blue Devils will have to be diligent about being patient and utilizing the shot clock, something they have struggled to do at times throughout the season. With Jayson Tatum evolving into a more reliable 3-point shooter recently, Duke's plethora of perimeter weapons could give the Blue Devils a significant advantage.

After a standout performance against North Carolina Feb. 9, junior Grayson Allen has turned in three consecutive quiet performances. He and sophomore Luke Kennard rely heavily on 3-pointers, and there is potential for either to have a strong game while Amile Jefferson and Harry Giles tangle with the Orange frontcourt.

Control the tempo from the start

Despite the seven-game winning streak, the Blue Devils struggle to dominate early and often and have sometimes played down to their competition. Duke entered halftime with a sizable lead in only two of those seven victories, relying on second-half spurts to ultimately decide close games. Fourteen of Syracuse’s 16 wins have come at home, so it will be necessary for the Blue Devils to establish a consistent rhythm early to take the crowd out of the game. Duke handed Notre Dame its second home loss of the season Jan. 30 by spreading the ball and attacking the rim, two essential tasks against any Syracuse team. Read more »

Chronicle pregame: Duke men's basketball vs. Syracuse

Chronicle pregame: Duke men's basketball vs. Syracuse

With the Blue Devils riding a seven-game winning streak, The Chronicle's Amrith Ramkumar and Mitchell Gladstone get you ready for another tough road contest at Syracuse Wednesday night at 7.

0:36—What makes the Orange's experienced offense dangerous in the backcourt

1:22—Why Syracuse's zone has not been very effective this year

2:03—How the Orange's shot-happy tendencies could play right into Duke's hands Read more »

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Syracuse

X Factor: Duke men's basketball vs. Syracuse

Duke heads to Syracuse, N.Y., Wednesday looking to continue its current seven-game winning streak and pick up a game in the ACC standings against Louisville or North Carolina, who will also meet Wednesday in Chapel Hill. The Blue Devils are aiming to defeat Syracuse for the fourth time in six matchups since the Orange joined the ACC in 2013. The Blue Zone takes a look at a player from each team who could be the difference-maker in the game:

Duke: Guard Frank Jackson

Although classmate Jayson Tatum has drawn the most attention for his series of performances during Duke’s winning streak, the Blue Devils will need another freshman to step up and deliver against Syracuse. The Orange feature Hall-of-Fame head coach Jim Boeheim’s famed 2-3 zone, which Syracuse has turned into a deadly weapon during Boeheim’s tenure since he first became head coach in 1976, four years before Coach K arrived in Durham. 

In order for Duke to dismantle this signature defense, point guard play will be key. When the point guard is able to shoot over the zone in addition to attacking the gaps with dribble penetration and dishing out to shooters, he can overwork the front two guards and set up opportunities for his teammates. Read more »