Blue Zone

Duke in the NBA: Jayson Tatum helps Celtics mount 22-point comeback

Just past the midway point of the 2017-18 NBA season, the Blue Zone takes a look at which former Blue Devils are making an impact in the league.

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics: 

Tatum and the Celtics had a light week, with four days off following their trip to London. While there, Tatum played a pivotal role in the Celtics’ comeback victory against the 76ers. After failing to make his presence felt in the first half, the 19-year-old rookie made his first five shots of the third quarter, in which which Boston outscored Philadelphia 37-22.

Tatum finished the game with 16 points, and the Celtics mounted a 22-point comeback to win 114-103. He chipped in another 10 points in Tuesday’s home loss to the Pelicans, which snapped Boston’s seven-game winning streak.

In other news, Tatum announced Saturday that he has become a father. He posted a picture of his newborn son, Jayson Tatum, Jr., dressed in Duke gear on Instagram.

Kyrie Irving, Boston Celtics: 

Irving has developed a reputation for his clutch scoring, and for good reason—the 25-year-old guard ranks among the league’s best in clutch time efficiency. 

But in Tuesday’s 116-113 overtime loss to the Pelicans, Irving missed a crucial free throw and a late three-pointer which led to the Celtics’ defeat. He did, however, finish with 27 points despite shooting 8-of-24 from the floor. In Boston’s London victory against the 76ers, Irving contributed 20 points and 7 assists.

In the latest All-Star fan voting tally, Irving was in first place for Eastern Conference guards by over 800,000 votes, so it would appear that the Duke product will once again be starting in the All-Star Game.

The Celtics will meet the 76ers again Thursday night in Boston.

Austin Rivers, Los Angeles Clippers:

Rivers has missed the last nine games with an Achilles injury, but that did not stop him from making headlines Monday night. During the Clippers’ win against Houston, Rivers was involved in an altercation with Rockets guard Trevor Ariza that culminated in the police being called when ex-Clipper Chris Paul led a group of his teammates through a back entrance into the Los Angeles locker room after the game.

The Clippers, who have won five games in a row (including double-digit victories against the Warriors and Rockets), will host the Denver Nuggets Wednesday night.

Brandon Ingram, Los Angeles Lakers: 

Ingram played a huge role in last Thursday’s surprising upset of the San Antonio Spurs, leading his team with 26 points. He suffered a minor left knee sprain Saturday in the second quarter of the Lakers’ win against the Mavericks, but he does not expect to be out for long. 

The Lakers will head to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder Wednesday night.

Justise Winslow, Miami Heat: 

Winslow returned to action Sunday against the Bucks after missing 14 games due to a knee injury. The young forward played a limited 13 minutes and recorded three points, four rebounds, and four assists. The following night he played 21 minutes, scoring four points to go along with six rebounds and four assists.

The surging Heat will visit the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday evening.

J.J. Redick, Philadelphia 76ers:

Like the Celtics, the 76ers only played two games this week due to their trip to London. In their matchup with Boston, Redick drilled five threes and scored 22 points. Monday night, he played an large part in Philadelphia’s upset of the second-seeded Toronto Raptors, scoring 15 points, but sustained a leg injury in the fourth quarter of that contest and is expected to be sidelined for 10 days to two weeks.

The Sixers will take on the red-hot Celtics, who have won seven of their last eight, at the TD Garden Thursday night.

Beyond the arc: Win against Miami shows Duke's Jekyll and Hyde nature

No. 5 Duke secured its third consecutive ACC win in their 83-75 road triumph against the Hurricanes. The Blue Zone gives three key takeaways and stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils: 

Three key takeaways

1. Duke's grit returns

The second half of Monday’s contest against Miami exhibited both Duke’s clear vulnerabilities and utter dominance. For over seven minutes in the beginning of the second half, the Blue Devils failed to score a point. In this dry spell, the Mike Krzyzewski-led squad committed six turnovers and missed all six of their attempts from the line. 

Any hope of a tough win on the road seemed to be lost with the Blue Devils facing a deficit of 13 points with only eight minutes remaining, until a switch appeared to flip for the team. Then, a red-hot Gary Trent Jr. drilled consecutive attempts from beyond the arc, sparking Duke to end the game on a 30-9 run and its first ACC win on the road. The Blue Devils' grit, which seemed to be its hallmark in the beginning of the season, finally returned.  

2. Trent shines

Coming off of a remarkably efficient performance of 19 points on just 8 shots in Duke’s 89-71 rout over Wake Forest, freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. delivered the best performance of his young career against Miami. The freshman led all Duke scorers with 30 points, the highest total of his young career. Trent Jr. connected on six three-pointers in the game for the second straight game, including an electrifying make as time expired in the first half—and yes, he did call bank. If Trent stays hot, the Blue Devils' offense could be a whole lot more potent going forward, with a perimeter game to match their interior dominance. 

3. Allen’s ongoing shooting slump

Once again, Grayson Allen appeared to lack confidence in his shot, converting just two of his nine field goal attempts. The senior has scored just seven points in his last two appearances, the lowest two game points total Allen has tallied since his freshman campaign. Despite his scoring drought, the Blue Devils’ captain has continued to be a playmaker, showcased most strongly in his highlight reel steal and assist sequence leading to Trent Jr.’s buzzer beater. 

Three key stats

1. Duke’s free throw woes persist

The Blue Devils made just 10 of their 21 free throw attempts, good for an abysmal 47.6 percent clip. Entering Monday night, Duke had the No. 214 free throw percentage in the nation. The trio leading the team in attempts—Marvin Bagley III, Trevon Duval, and Wendell Carter Jr.—all have shot below 70 percent from the charity stripe, and they combined to connect on just four of their 13 free throws on Monday.

2. Bagley III disappears offensively

Scoring just 13 points matched up against a talented Miami frontcourt, Bagley accrued his lowest scoring total of the 2017-18 season, aside from his injury-shortened performance against Michigan State. Although the freshman sensation was quiet, Duke’s other three freshmen starters in Carter Jr., Trent Jr, and Duval all stepped up in a major way. This was encouraging for the Blue Devils, as their offensive success appears to be less solely focused on the success of Bagley. 

3. Limited bench involvement

In 22 combined minutes Justin Robinson, Alex O’Connell, Jordan Goldwire and Jack White combined for three points, one rebound, and one turnover. The disappearance of the Blue Devils’ bench is alarming—a consistent rotation of only five players may be dangerous. Duke will have to get Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier back on the floor if it wants to have the deep bench it needs to make a deep March run. 

Looking forward:

The Blue Devils’ comeback victory over Miami displayed the Jekyll and Hyde nature of this year’s team. One moment, Duke looked lost under pressure, seemingly letting their inexperience take over. But the teams sheer talent can overwhelm opponents in a flash and produce breathtaking finishes, powerful blocks and thunderous dunks. This volatility means that the Blue Devils are susceptible to dropping games they shouldn’t—like against Boston College and North Carolina State—but it also makes Duke a terrifying team to play against. 

HALFTIME: Duke 42, Miami 40

CORAL GABLES, Fla.—Looking for a marquee road victory against a traditionally tough opponent, the Blue Devils got off to a shaky start when freshman Marvin Bagley III exited the court early in the game with an apparent wrist or shoulder injury.  

But the freshman returned minutes later during the next media timeout and the Blue Devils weathered a hot start from the Hurricanes to stay in the game. 

No. 5 Duke leads No. 25 Miami 42-40 after 20 minutes of play at the Watsco Center, after Grayson Allen dove for a steal in the final seconds and Gary Trent Jr. banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer. The Blue Devils are led by a double-double from freshman Wendell Carter Jr. already with 11 points and 10 boards.  

After the early injury, forward Lonnie Walker IV connected on a pair of triples to give the Hurricanes an 8-4 lead. The Blue Devils responded by spreading the court and pushing the pace with freshman Trevon Duval, who finished the half with seven points and three assists.

The Blue Devils went on a 9-0 run fueled by guard Trent to push the lead to as many as seven. Despite Bagley’s slow start from the field, Trent found open space in the Miami defense and ended the half with nine points on 3-of-5 shooting. 

But the Hurricanes responded almost immediately with a quick 9-1 run of their own to retake a 24-22 lead. Miami used its aggressive defense to pressure Duke’s ball-handlers and forced nine Blue Devil turnovers in the first half. 

After struggling to score early in ACC play, the Hurricanes got much of their offense in transition and outscored Duke 21-2 on fast-break points. Miami took advantage of the Blue Devils’ carelessness on offense and finished a number of possessions with breakaway dunks.  

Duval and classmate Carter helped the Blue Devils regain control late in the half as each connected from beyond the arc against a scrambling Miami defense. The duo then linked up for an alley-oop slam coming out of a timeout. As a team, Duke finished the first half 6-of-12 from deep. 

Here are some other observations from the half: 

  • Playing against one of the biggest teams in the nation, the diminutive Chris Lykes has looked comfortable running Miami’s offense. The guard is Miami’s leading scorer at the half with eight points on 3-of-8 shooting. 
  • Duval’s 3-point stroke continues to improve and the freshman looks much more comfortable on the perimeter in Duke’s most recent games. 
  • Allen is off to another cold start, with just as many turnovers as points: three.

Key three: Miami has one defensive liability that Duke needs to exploit

Coming off of two straight conference victories against Pittsburgh and Wake Forest, the No. 5 Blue Devils will travel to South Beach in hopes of beating the No. 25 Hurricanes in their house for the first time since 2011. Here are three keys to the game: 

Attack Chris Lykes

Playing for a weaker offensive ACC team which has only averaged 73 points, freshman Chris Lykes has been a standout point guard this season, giving his team a reliable scoring option. While his offensive game is polished and elite, the same cannot be said for his defensive efficiency. Only standing at 5-foot-7, Lykes is a defensive liability for an otherwise strong defensive team that ranks No. 7 in basketball statistician Ken Pomeroy's defensive efficiency rankings. 

Against a tough defense, Duke can get look to get its offense going by attacking Lykes with Trevon Duval, who stands eight inches taller and more than 20 pounds heavier than Lykes. This will kill two birds with one stone by exploiting Miami’s defensive weakness while simultaneously getting Duval involved, which has been a key for the Blue Devils' offense all season long. 

Keep the bench involved

For the past two games, Duke’s bench has stepped up with sophomores Marques Bolden and Javin DeLaurier out due to injuries. Throughout this stretch, freshman Alex O'Connell has stood out, stretching the floor and averaging nearly 11 points per game. Against Pittsburgh, sophomore Justin Robinson also scored 10 points in two rebounds and three blocks. 

These contributions from the reserves have been crucial to Duke’s success so far, especially since senior captain Grayson Allen has struggled with his shot, only averaging seven points per game in the past three contests. With such a thin bench, the Blue Devils will need strong contributions from O'Connell, Robinson and even Antonio Vrankovic to come away victorious. 

No easy baskets

Though Duke boasts two of the best bigs in college basketball in freshmen Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr., Miami’s forwards sophomore Dewan Huell and Junior Ebuka Izundu, standing at 6-foot-11 and 6-foot-10, respectively, will challenge the Blue Devils down low. While Duke should try its best to play mostly a clean non-contact defensive game, the Hurricanes have shot an abysmal 63 percent from the free-throw line, and Inzundu has shot a horrendous 38.9 percent from the charity striple. 

Open dunks and layups for the Hurricanes can swing momentum their way quickly, especially since the game will be played in Miami, so the Blue Devils should limit those potential runs by making the Hurricanes earn their points from the charity stripe. As long as the Blue Devils are careful about avoiding foul trouble for late in the game, this strategy could prove effective if used correctly. Carter has struggled in particular with fouls, so perhaps 

Thoughts on the AP Poll: Duke jumps up to No. 5, Michigan State drops to No. 9 after tough week

Despite back-to-back matchups against unranked opponents, the Blue Devils rose in the rankings after losses by Michigan State and West Virginia caused a shakeup in the top five. 

Duke Basketball gets back on track, rises to No. 5

After their shocking loss to NC State last weekend, Duke followed up the defeat with back-to-back dominant wins against Pittsburgh and Wake Forest. Against the Panthers, the Blue Devils received much needed assistance from the bench with Javin Delaurier and Marques Bolden both out nursing injuries. The reserves chipped in with 22 points, including a career-high 10 points from Justin Robinson. In Saturday's matchup against Wake Forest, Duke commanded the game throughout,  despite playing without Coach K who was absent due to an illness. The Blue Devils shot 52 percent from three in the contest, well above their season average of 37 percent. With the chaos at the top of the polls, Duke now sits at No. 5 in the new AP Poll. This week, the Blue Devils face a tough challenge with No. 25 Miami on the road Monday, before returning to Durham to take on unranked Pittsburgh once again Saturday.

Michigan State’s struggles continue

Following Michigan State’s first conference loss to Ohio State on Jan. 9, the Spartans Big Ten woes continued this week with another road loss to in state rival Michigan. Michigan State looked to return to form facing unranked Rutgers last weekend, a team that ranked last in the Big Ten in scoring, but they were forced into overtime on their home floor. Michigan State then limped into Ann Arbor, Mich., Saturday, and were not able to come up with victory. Michigan entered the rankings at No. 23 following the victory. A common theme for both games was turnovers by Michigan State. Against Rutgers and Michigan, the Spartans committed 13 and 18 turnovers respectively. Coming off the tough week, Michigan State’s ranking fell five spots to No. 9. The Spartans are looking to move back up in the rankings this week with games against unranked Indiana and Illinois. 

Oklahoma climbs in rankings after notable wins

Oklahoma’s success against a rugged Big 12 schedule continued with two impressive wins against then-No. 8 Texas Tech and then-No. 16 TCU. Despite the fact that the Sooners currently have the seventh hardest schedule in the nation, they are continuing to meet the challenge. Freshman sensation Trae Young continued to lead Oklahoma, scoring 27 points and 43 points against Texas Tech and TCU respectively. With the two wins against ranked opponents last week, the Sooners moved up five spots to No. 4 in the rankings. Oklahoma once again faces two more challenging opponents this week going on the road against in-state rival Oklahoma State followed by a game against No. 10 Kansas in Norman.



1. Villanova

2. Virginia

3.  Purdue

4.  Oklahoma

5. Duke 

6. West Virginia

7. Wichita State

8. Texas Tech

9.  Michigan State

10. Kansas

11. Xavier

12. Cincinnati

13. Gonzaga

14. Arizona

15. North Carolina

16. Arizona State

17. Auburn

18. Kentucky

19. Seton Hall

20. Clemson

21. Tennessee

22. Ohio State

23. Michigan

24. TCU

25. Miami

Former Blue Devil Jayson Tatum welcomes infant son sporting Duke gear

Jayson Tatum has surprised fans with his excellence on the floor for the Boston Celtics in his rookie year this season, and he revealed another big change in his life off the court this weekend.

Tatum posted on Instagram Saturday that he is the father of a newborn boy named Jayson Christopher Tatum Jr., and though the elder Tatum only spent one year at Duke last season, he left little doubt that his son will be a Blue Devil fan.

The younger Tatum could potentially be the crown jewel of Duke's 2036 recruiting class like his father was in 2016, but Father Time may be taking its toll on the Celtics star already. The 19-year-old did not practice Saturday due to a knee injury he suffered against the Philadelphia 76ers Thursday night, but he is expected to be back on the floor before long.

The 6-foot-8 small forward has not missed a game yet this season and is averaging 13.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per contest for the top team in the Eastern Conference.

Take of the week: Grayson Allen needs to be Duke's Swiss army knife

Every week, the Blue Zone will make a take on Duke basketball—whether that take may be hot, cold or lukewarm. This week's take is in from associate sports editor Ben Feder: 

The take: Grayson Allen needs to be this team’s Swiss army knife

Grayson Allen has had quite the start to the season. Named the sole team captain at the beginning of the year for one of Duke’s youngest squads, Allen made waves when he willed the Blue Devils to victory against then-No. 2 Michigan State in Chicago with Marvin Bagley III sidelined, and was immediately vaulted into the pole position for national player of the year. 

But since then, Bagley has cemented himself as the team’s No. 1 option, and though Allen has hit some key shots, he is not relied upon as he was two years ago, when he was attempting more than 14 shots from the field a game. Regardless, the basket has not been Allen’s friend recently. The past five games, Allen has made just a third of his shots from the field and 23.1 percent from deep.

Despite his cold shooting in Duke’s victories against Wake Forest and Pittsburgh this week, Allen has found different ways to make an impact, registering game highs in both rebounds and assists, something he is capable of in spurts. His 12 boards Saturday against Wake Forest were the most of his career.

Yes, this Blue Devil squad is good right now, and it is also extremely talented. But every great team has that one player who can do whatever is needed on any given night. For Duke’s 2015 national championship team, that guy was Justise Winslow, and right now, the Blue Devils do not have that versatile threat yet. 

That is what they need Allen to do. Whether it is stepping up and making some key 3-pointers, providing a little extra hustle to push the team or transitioning into a point guard to spell Trevon Duval, Allen has proved that he can be the one capable of doing that.

And if Duke wants to cut down the net in April, Allen is going to have to be that guy.

Beyond the arc: O'Connell continues to provides a spark, plus other takeaways for Duke

The seventh-ranked Blue Devils picked up their third conference win of the 2017-18 campaign, demolishing Wake Forest 89-71. The Blue Zone gives three key takeaways and stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils:

Three key takeaways:

1. Ailments don’t stop the Blue Devils

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski was out for today’s contest against Wake Forest, propelling assistant coach Jeff Capel into the lead role. Additionally, starting freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. was questionable heading into the game with nausea, although he was able to play, while sophomore big men Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden were out with injuries. However, the remaining Duke squad appeared to be at full health in its dominant 89-71 victory over the Demon Deacons. And the ailments didn't seem to hurt Trent—he finished the game with 19 points on 6-of-7 shooting from deep in 31 minutes. 

2. Allen continues scoring trouble

Senior captain Grayson Allen failed to convert a field goal attempt this afternoon on five attempts, finishing with just two points. The guard has shot just 30.7 percent from the floor in conference play thus far. Despite this, Allen was able to make an impact, accumulating 12 rebounds and 8 assists. Perhaps with all of the weapons surrounding him, Duke fans could expect to see more Swiss Army knife-type games from Allen. 

3. O’Connell provides a spark

Energetic guard Alex O’Connell proved to be electric off the bench once again, tallying 13 points in just 15 minutes. The highlight of the freshman guard’s afternoon came in a minute-long stretch at the end of the first half in which he scored nine consecutive points. O’Connell continues to lead the team in true shooting percentage and is one of Duke’s most efficient scorers—he could keep pushing for more time in the rotation with play like this. 

Three key stats:

1. Carter fouls out

After picking up four fouls in each of the Blue Devils’ prior three contests, Wendell Carter Jr. had five fouls against Wake Forest, disqualifying him from the contest with 7:52 left in the game. An ongoing issue, Carter’s foul troubles need to improve, especially with Duke’s top reserve bigs in DeLaurier and Bolden sidelined. When he was been on the floor, he notched a double-double despite a 3-for-9 shooting day, scoring 15 points and racking up 11 boards. 

2. Duke gets hot from outside

The Blue Devils connected on 12 three pointers on just 23 attempts, amounting to an incredible 52.2 percent clip. Trent led the team with six made three-pointers, a career high. After struggling mightily from deep against Florida State and N.C. State, Duke has picked up its play, albeit against weaker competition, also nailing 12 from deep against Pittsburgh Wednesday. 

3. Duke goes 27-of-34 from the free throw line

The Blue Devils’ physicality proved to be too much for the Demon Deacons, as they reached their high-water mark for free throws made in a game for the 2017-18 season. Perhaps more importantly, Duke shot 79.4 percent from the charity stripe, which is a great deal better than their 68.9 percent team mark entering Saturday's matchup against Wake Forest.

Looking forward:

Although Wake Forest looks to be one of the weakest teams in the ACC—they currently sit at 1-4 in conference play—Duke fired on all cylinders. Although two of Duke’s most utilized bench players in DeLaurier and Bolden were out for Saturday's game, five players appeared off of the bench for Capel, each notching at least four minutes. Duke will need a strong bench to thrive as the season progresses.

Perhaps most importantly, Grayson Allen needs to regain his shot. If he is unable to reassert himself as the elite scorer he has been in the past, the Blue Devils may struggle to ascend to the elite levels of which they are capable of reaching.  

HALFTIME: Duke 46, Wake Forest 33

Against a much more aggressive team than Pittsburgh and missing the leadership of head coach Mike Krzyzewski, the Blue Devils faced a much bigger test in Wake Forest for their sometimes questionable defense.

But with the Demon Deacons struggling with sloppy play, Duke enters the second half with an 46-33 lead, with freshman big man Marvin Bagley III and reserve guard Alex O'Connell combining for 25 points.

After a scoreless opening couple of minutes, senior Grayson Allen dished a pass to freshman Bagley for a massive alley-oop. The Demon Deacons responded immediately with a layup as both teams battled for the lead in the first 10 minutes.

With Wake Forest up 15-11, a 3-pointer from freshman Gary Trent Jr. with 13:12 on the clock jumpstarted the Blue Devils' offense, sparking a 14-2 run to put Duke up 25-17.

But the Demon Deacons weren't shaken by the Blue Devils' surge on offense, with Bryant Crawford responding with a three and a putback jumper at to put Wake within three with 6:38 left in the half.

But the freshman trio of Bagley, O'Connell and Trent kept the Blue Devils in control. Nine straight points from O'Connell in less than a minute were part of an 13-5 run to close the half that gave Duke a double-digit lead.

Here are a few observations from the first half:

  • Justin Robinson is stepping into a bigger role on the team. With DeLaurier and Bolden sidelined again due to injury, the former walk-on was switched onto the court early before the first media timeout—before O'Connell and Antonio Vrankovic.
  • The Demon Deacons are struggling to stay clean through the first half. Wake Forest committed five fouls in the first five minutes and ended the half with 14. 
  • Grayson Allen is taking the reins for Duke as a playmaker. Allen leads the Blue Devils in assists and rebounds and at the half while Trevon Duval has remained largely absent due to an apparent toe injury.
  • Gary Trent Jr. appears to be sick—he spent a while on the bench with a trash can in front of him.

Cameron Chronicles roundtable: Breaking down Duke's start to ACC play

The Chronicle's men's basketball beat writers Mitchell Gladstone, Hank Tucker, Sameer Pandhare and Ben Leonard got together to break down Duke's start to ACC play on Episode 4 of Cameron Chronicles. If you want to listen here, click below. Stay tuned for a few guests on the podcast in the coming weeks.

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