When you're Duke, at least the Duke of the last five to 10 years, you're supposed to win almost every game, get upset a couple of times and then see what happens in March. It's an unfair aspect of the sport, but it's one that also makes it great. Because of that, the regular season rarely produces any memorable games anymore.
But Duke, especially this Duke team, has had a way of transforming the mundane into must-see TV. Whether it's a Zion Williamson dunk, or an insanely athletic block, a buzzer-beating three by Cam Reddish on the road at Florida State or a pair of impressive wins over an unbelievable Virginia team, the '18-19 Blue Devils squad could be one we'll remember for years to come.
And on Tuesday night Duke came up with its signature victory, overcoming a 23-point deficit to beat Louisville on the road and improve their record to 22-2. But this wasn't just any old 23-point comeback (a deficit multiple NBA teams erased last week), this was one of the most bizarre collapses by Louisville you'll ever see. While the 23-point deficit will be the one everyone focuses on, the craziness really began when Duke was down 62-43 with just 6:43 play, a seemingly insurmountable margin to overcome with that little time. This is especially true for this Duke squad, which seemed to max out their three-point allotment last Saturday at Virginia.
To erase that deficit, it would have taken a boatload of threes, a few steals and a bunch of missed shots from Louisville. What happened instead was Louisville basically throwing the ball to Duke on every possession for the remainder of the game, or at least that's what it looked like. After with a made jumper by Williamson to cut the lead to 62-45 with 6:22 to go, Louisville proceeded to turn the ball over eight times, score just seven points and shoot 1-for-5 from the field in the final six-plus minutes. During that same time span, Duke was going on an improbable 28-7 run to close out the game that included only two three-pointers. These ESPN highlights pick up with 6:16 to go, so you can see for yourself just how ridiculous this was:
Those highlights omit HALF of the turnovers Louisville committed in the final six minutes. Half! That's how epic this collapse was, that ESPN couldn't even fit in all the times Louisville tossed the ball to the guys in white jerseys. Unless you watched the game or go back and watch the full thing, it's difficult to describe how shocking it was. No, Louisville did not "throw" the game, that is an outlandish accusation, but it was such a disaster that that's what it felt like was happening.
I don't want to discount the pressure Duke was putting on the ball, and all the hustle, which was incredible to watch. Most teams down 19 with six minutes to go are chucking up threes and checking out of the game, but this Duke team was absolutely relentless until the final minute, and they had a whole lot of help from Louisville's breakdown. It was reminiscent of a certain Duke comeback that has its own place in history:
The "Miracle Minute" will always be one of the GOATs, as is the case with any game that gets its own name that diehard basketball fans recognize the second you say it. Plus, it's really special since it's literally just Jay Williams going off. But this most recent Duke comeback on Tuesday has to be in the conversation because of the way it happened. It didn't take a few missed free throws and some quick threes at the other end. This took six minutes of all-out, balls-to-the-wall defending, layups, threes, free throws, etc. Call it recency bias but the Miracle (Six) Minute(s) at Louisville might be Duke's best ever. The numbers seem to support this: