Duke squeaks by Clemson

Duke's Rodney Hood finished with 17 points, but none were more critical than his two free throws with 3.8 seconds left. 

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Duke (25-7) hung on to edge Clemson (20-12) in the final ACC Tournament quarterfinal. Three of the four games on Friday came down to the end, and two of the four saw one team lose a large lead but still hang on for the win. 

Duke was the victim in the final game of the night, losing a 13-point lead with 14:24 to go and a double-digit lead with less than 10 minutes to go to Clemson before ultimately holding on to win. It was two Rodney Hood free throws with seconds remaining that gave Duke the 63-62 lead, which held up as Clemson’s Rod Hall missed a shot at the buzzer.

It could have sent Duke home early and in real danger of getting a seed lower than expected in the NCAA Tournament, while it could have been a potential NCAA-clinching win for Clemson. Instead, the Tigers go home (and likely to the NIT) while Duke advances in a suddenly wide-open ACC Tournament field. 

1. Duke’s defense is still … well … a concern.

Clemson is not very good at shooting, and it’s not all that great generally on offense. But the Tigers got to the basket seemingly at will in the second half, shooting 66.7 percent from the field and 11-of-13 from two-point range. If it wasn’t for Clemson settling for so many three-pointers — eight in the second half and 16 for the game — Duke might have been in more trouble a little earlier in the second half. 

Ultimately, Clemson — a team that attacked the basket against Duke the first time around with great success — eschewed some of its game plan from the first meeting and decided to take a few too many jump shots.

Some of that was because of Duke’s defense, which wasn’t always bad, but a lot of it was due to Clemson choosing bad shots.

Duke is still having a lot of problems containing the dribble, and that’s going to continue to be a problem against teams that have quick guards. It might not be a huge problem in tomorrow’s semifinal against NC State, a team that doesn’t utilize its point guards off the bounce as much as some teams, but it could be one. 

2. The slowdown offense is something this team doesn’t do well. 

Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke teams have almost always — especially recently — slowed their offense to a crawl late in games they control, taking as much time as possible to get the best shot possible.

But at times, it hasn’t seemed like this particular Duke team is very good at that. It’s almost as if this team has two speeds — full-go and confusion/delay. There’s very little in-between. 

Duke went through quite the offensive drought late in the game and as missed shots late in the shot clock compounded, so too did the frustration. 

"It’s just, especially today, just shots weren’t falling for us," Duke’s Amile Jefferson said. "I think we’re executing well. We had a lot of good looks — they just didn’t go. We had to fight on the other end, and we toughed it out, all our baskets. It builds character playing in games like this."

3. Jabari Parker wasn’t quite able to carry over his success from last two games. 

He was asked if he met his own expectations. It was a big-picture question, but he didn’t know that. "I don’t think I met them. I didn’t do a good job out there defensively and I could’ve done a better job offensively," Parker said of his performance against Clemson. 

For the whole season, he was gently prodded.

"I think we’re in a good place so far," Parker said. "What I want to see is the end product of what I can be as a basketball player."

He finished 6-of-17 shooting against Clemson for 18 points and just three rebounds, his fewest since January 13 against Virginia. 

To be fair to Parker, he didn’t look all that well. He sweat through his uniform early in the action and while he got enough stamina to make a few plays — a run-out for a dunk, for example — he just looked a step or two slow.

He refused to admit that anything was wrong, though. 

"I’m feeling good. It’s just — no excuses for how I played. No excuses," Parker said. "I know from now on if it’s going to be close, I can’t be having the performance that I had."