Notre Dame had just gone on a 20-4 run to turn a 10 point deficit into a six-point lead as No. 7 Duke had suddenly gone ice cold from the floor.
Rodney Hood and Quinn Cook had cooled off after their hot starts and as the clock ticked into crunch time in Duke’s first ACC game of the season, those of us watching at home could only assume that Mike Krzyzewski would be giving the ball to his superstar forward, Jabari Parker.
Only, Parker was no where to be found and Duke lost, 79-77.
The favorite to win the National Player of the Year award after non-conference play, Parker had easily his worst game of the season. He finished with just seven points on 2-for-10 shooting, turning the ball over three times and playing a grand total of 24 minutes. More importantly, Parker was glued to the bench for the final 3:35, a stretch where the Blue Devils had a chance to erase a 70-64 deficit.
On a key, final possession for the Blue Devils, Rodney Hood over-penetrated and turned the ball over. Might have been nice for the Duke to have had the option of giving the ball to the most potent offensive player in the country, no?
Well, it seems that head coach Mike Krzyzewski was trying to drive a point home to Jabari Parker. As good as he is offensively, Parker’s been lackadaisical defensively. Part of the reason he got dunked on by Pat Connuaghton late in the game was that he was late on a rotation, trying to block a shot instead of take a charge.
“For any kid who is not playing well, you should try to find a kid that is playing well,” Coach K said after the game, and he does have a point. If Parker isn’t going to bring anything on the defensive end of the floor and he’s struggling shooting the ball, what value does he have on the court?
On the other hand, I’m not sure there are three guys I would rather have with the ball in their hands on a final possession than Parker. He’s good enough to be allowed to shoot through his off-nights, right?
I’m not going to second-guess Coach K here. He’s coaching for March. He needs to do what he has to do to get his team ready to play for a national title, and if that means sacrificing Parker on a couple of late possessions to send a message, than that’s what he has to do.
Losing a game in early January can be recovered from.