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Despite all the media attention given to the duo of Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee, Cook and Sulaimon are Duke’s key players. The reason is that both Cook and Sulaimon are versatile scorers whereas Curry and Plumlee are not.
Stretches of poor shooting are inevitable. What gets a team through those periods is finding alternative ways to score.
While Curry is unquestionably the team’s best three-point shooter, his injury looks to have limited his ability to drive to the basket with regularity. Plumlee, meanwhile, can only post up and when a defender is getting the better of him, there isn’t a plan B.
Cook and Suliamon, on the other hand, can not only shoot from the outside, both can also get into the lane for higher percentage shots. Obviously Curry and Plumlee typically tally up more points than Cook and Sulaimon, but the reason the later duo is more integral to Duke is that their skill set allows the team to weather storms of bad shooting.
When the shots aren’t falling, Cook and Sulaimon have to carry the load by getting shots in the paint until the good shooting form returns. They did that against UNC and the result was Duke staying close until the shots finally started to fall and the Blue Devils could finally push ahead.