Plumlee’s play inside opens Duke’s offense for 3-point attempts
Three-point shots off the hands of Duke players are falling at a high percentage this season, helping vault the Blue Devils to the nation’s No. 1 ranking once again.
Heading into tonight’s game with Clemson at Cameron Indoor Stadium (7 p.m., ESPNU), the Blue Devils have made 42.1 percent of their 3-point shots. If the season ended today, that would be the third-best 3-point shooting percentage in school history.
Duke’s success, Coach Mike Krzyzewski said, is a product of more than just shooting ability. While the Blue Devils (14-0, 1-0 ACC) certainly have that, Krzyzewski said the solid season center Mason Plumlee also is having an impact on the perimeter game.
“I think we have good 3‑point shooting,” Krzyzewski said Monday. “I think the 3‑point shooting is enhanced by the fact that we have a player inside that demands attention in Mason. As a result, I think sometimes you get more wide‑open shots when you’re trying to take away the post.
“I think the type of (3-point shots) we’ve had this year have been a higher‑percentage three overall than in the past.”
Plumlee, a 6-10 senior, is averaging 18.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Having shot to the forefront of conversations about the national player of the year race, he is drawing more attention from opposing defenses lately.
Wednesday night in Charlotte, for example, Davidson double-teamed Plumlee in the post consistently in a game the Blue Devils eventually won 67-50 after being tied 29-all at halftime.
Wake Forest employed a similar attack on Saturday when Duke won 80-62 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Now that the Blue Devils have entered ACC play, Plumlee and his teammates have said expect to see that kind of treatment more and more.
With that being the case, Krzyzewski said Plumlee has to use the attention to his advantage to help himself and the team. That happened against Wake Forest as the game progressed.
“In the first half, I think he let the double-team dictate to him what he was going to do instead of at times dictating to that double team what he was going to do with it,” Krzyzewski said. “The second half, he did that.”
By adjusting in such a way, Plumlee is making it easier for Duke’s jump shooters to rack up 3-pointers to help bury opponents.
Over the past four games, Duke has made a blistering 50 percent (34 of 68) of its 3-pointers. Senior forward Ryan Kelly, named the ACC’s player of the week on Monday, has been a benefactor.
Kelly has hit 12 of his last 17 3-point attempts, including 5 of 7 against Wake Forest on his way to scoring 22 points.
“He just had the openings, and he knocked them down,” Krzyzewski said.
Even after missing all 11 field goal attempts Saturday, including four 3-pointers, point guard Quinn Cook has made 19 of 43 3-pointers this season for 44.2 percent.
Senior guard Seth Curry is 29-of-71 (40.8 percent), while freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon is 21-of-54 (38.9 percent).
“Those guys are gong to have open shots,” Plumlee said. “So we have a good dynamic going there where I’m inside and those guys are spacing the floor.”
That spacing also allows Duke’s 3-point shooters to use head fakes to drive the lane. That leads to either a higher-percentage shot or a kick-out pass to another jump shooter more open behind the 3-point line.
“Whenever we attack the paint,” Curry said, “defenses have to collapse and that’s when we kick it for threes.”
As a result, Duke is averaging 80.1 points per game. Since only three teams have topped the 70-point mark against the Blue Devils, it’s easy to see why they are one of four unbeaten teams remaining and the owners of the nation’s No.1 ranking.