Georgia Tech vs Duke: Will Slow Starts Ultimately Be the Blue Devils' Undoing?

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Georgia Tech vs Duke: Will Slow Starts Ultimately Be the Blue Devils' Undoing?
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The Duke Blue Devils beat the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 73-57 on Thursday night.

If you simply look at the final score, this appears to be another "check-the-box" ACC win for Coach K: Seth Curry knocked down six of seven threes. Mason Plumlee put up his 11th double-double of the season. Check!

However, the beginning of the game wasn't quite so positive. The Yellow Jackets came out fast, the Blue Devils struggled early and Tech was up by one at the half.

Duke only scored 27 in the first 20 minutes.

Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Cameron Crazies work hard to get the Blue Devils going
The Cameron Crazies were probably not worried. GT is in the conference cellar and really didn't pose a serious threat to pull off a major upset.

But, the bigger issue here is the Blue Devils' routine of sluggish beginnings.

This wasn't the first time this year that Coach K's crew didn't come out with guns blazing from the opening tip:

  • In the Bahamas, the Blue Devils were only up one at half against Shaka Smart's VCU Rams 29-28.
  • When Duke faced (then) No. 4 Ohio State at home (Nov. 28), the Blue Devils only managed 23 points by halftime and were down eight to the Buckeyes.
  • In the Blue Devils' first game of 2013, Duke was tied with Davidson 29-29 at the half.
  • The first half of the Clemson game (Jan. 8) had to be one of the most ugly halves of hoops in recent years at Cameron. Duke was up 25-10 at intermission.
  • And, while the Blue Devils scored 39 against N.C. State, they were still trailing by two at the half (Game recap info from ESPN's Duke site)

 

Is this just being nitpicky, or is this a trend that could ultimately be Duke's undoing?

What did the slow start look like against Georgia Tech?

  • The Blue Devils didn't score for the first two-and-a-half minutes of the game.
  • Duke went scoreless for five minutes from the 7:17 mark to 2:12 remaining in the first half.
  • Mason Plumlee had one of his worst 20 minutes of the season. He shot 2-of-12 from the field.
  • The Blue Devils relied on a late first-half run just to pull within a point at the half.
Grant Halverson/Getty Images
Ryan Kelly's absence lessens Duke's scoring options

Especially with Ryan Kelly out, seniors Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry need to make sure that everyone is sharp, focused and ready to bring the action.

Slow starts aren't usually just about cold shooting, but a lack of aggressiveness.

Duke's road games and slow starts are a toxic mix. If the Blue Devils can't get it out of first gear in the first half against Miami next Wednesday, it could be a long night on South Beach.

Actually, any of Duke's eight true road games in conference play could turn into a nail-biter or an upset if the Devils don't start the game in attack mode and gain control from the onset.

Slow starts in the NCAA tournament can set up embarrassing upsets.

The Blue Devils were only up two points at the half last year against Lehigh in the opening round of March Madness.

We all know how that turned out.

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