Dean Smith’s Multiple Offense and Defense is a coach’s bible, a great peek into the legend’s playbook. Thursday night against the Duke Blue Devils, Carolina took that book’s title, particularly the ‘multiple defense’ part, to heart.
There were certainly offensive highlights in Carolina’s thrilling win over Duke Thursday night - Tokoto’s dunk follow, Paige’s three and Leslie’s jumper for the lead, to name three - but the game hinged on a terrific defensive stretch that kept the game within striking distance. Carolina showed three different defenses to confuse the Blue Devils and ultimately emerge victorious.
At 15:07 of the second half, Jabari Parker pushed a seven-point Duke halftime lead to 11. The Blue Devils would not make another field goal for nearly six minutes of game time. After Kennedy Meeks’ tremendous outlet pass finds Leslie McDonald for a lay-up, the lead is nine. Immediately after the fast break, the Tar Heels show their 3-2 defense for the first time, with Marcus Paige, J.P. Tokoto and McDonald across the top and Meeks and James Michael McAdoo down low. McAdoo steps in to take a charge on a Rodney Hood drive.
“That’s just to get them kind of flustered,” Tokoto said of the changing looks, “to have them set up something, get out of their offense and have to set up something new and keep changing from our 3 (3-2) defense to our 22, which is our man defense. Teams are going to get flustered, because they’ve got to figure out which spots to get to.”
Carolina gets the deficit to eight with a Brice Johnson free throw, and stays in the 3-2. Duke tries to create inside-out, but Rasheed Sulaimon’s three-point attempt is long. Plumlee draws a foul on Johnson on the put-back attempt. He makes one of two. Duke leads by nine, 52-43.
After a Tokoto spin and up-and-under, Carolina switches to man-to-man. Cook airballs a three attempt. On the next Duke possession, Jabari Parker makes one of two free throws. The lead is eight, 53-45. McDonald misses long from the corner, but McAdoo follows with a dunk.47-53.
Back to the 3-2, with Tokoto up top. Duke looks inside but has to pass around the perimeter. McDonald rebounds a Hood three attempt, but throws the ball away looking for Paige. The horn signals an official timeout at 11:37.
Carolina comes out of the break with a 1-3-1 defense. Tokoto up top, McDonald, Desmond Hubert and McAdoo across the middle, with Paige down low. This time, the Blue Devils struggle to get east of the Outer Banks of the midcourt logo for the first 15 seconds of the shot clock. Hood again misses a three. “I think it was kind of a change in tempo, change in pace for them,” McAdoo said. “They were able to, most of the game, break us down off the dribble really good. I think that really helped us kind of try to keep the ball out of the midddle of the court.”
The Tar Heels are in the 1-3-1 on the next possession. The Duke ballhandlers don’t want to dribble into traps, and the Heels rotate well with ball. Tokoto rebounds a missed Parker jumper. He dishes to a not-quite-ready Hubert and then follows Desmond’s miss with a two-hand slam. 53-49, Duke. The Blue Devils call timeout at 10:27.
“We thrive in the open court,” Tokoto said. “I thrive in the open court, getting out and running, so anything that can create a turnover, whether it’s our 22 defense getting after it, or it’s our 13 (1-3-1), using our length whatever it is, we play extremely hard as a unit, so in the 13 defense everybody’s on the same page, and if that’s happening it’s tough for people to pass through our defense.”
Carolina comes out of the stoppage in a man-to-man defense. Jefferson can’t convert a feed from Cook.
For the next three minutes, neither team will score. Carolina stays in man-to-man until Marcus Paige nails a three to pull the Tar Heels within one, 57-56, at 5:30. They switch back to the 3-2. Quinn Cook gets a fortuitous bounce and rolls in a three to answer. After McDonald makes two free throws and it’s a two-point game again, it’s back to the 1-3-1. Cook’s next three-point attempt rolls out, and McAdoo ties it on the other end.
Duke made six of their first eight shots of the second half and were able to extend their halftime lead to 11. After Carolina began showing multiple looks on defense, the Blue Devils made just five of their next 23 field goal attempts. Carolina outscored Duke by 19 over the game’s final 15 minutes and was able to put it away at the free throw line.
“They’re a good shooting team, but if you let them get comfortable running against the same defense, they’re going to find ways to exploit that,” Paige said after the game. “So, went from a 3-2 to 1-3-1, back and forth a couple of times, and that allowed us to chip away and get back into the game.”