It will be a lot harder for the top-ranked Blue Devils to replace everything else Irving does while he sits with a toe injury. And to listen to Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, it could be a long time before he returns.
Dawkins scored a career-high 28 points in his first start to help Duke beat Bradley 83-48 on Wednesday night, moving Krzyzewski into sole possession of third place on the all-time wins list.
The sophomore hit eight 3-pointers for the Blue Devils (9-0), while Kyle Singler added 17 points as Duke shook off a cold-shooting first half before blowing the game open with a flurry of 3s after halftime against the Braves (4-5).
But afterward, most of the talk wasn't focused on Dawkins' big night or Krzyzewski's latest milestone in a career filled with them. Instead, it was Irving, who suffered what appeared to be a minor injury to his big toe last weekend against Butler but now is out indefinitely.
Krzyzewski offered few details other than to say Irving is being evaluated by doctors both at Duke and nationally. He said the team hopes to learn more about his status in the next week to 10 days, though he said there was a possibility that Irving might be lost for the season.
"I can't say anything more because we're learning information," Krzyzewski said. "It is serious and whatever final decision is made, it's going to be based on what's in his best interests in his career, not to save him for any period of time or whatever. But he could be out for a long time."
Krzyzewski earned his 877th victory, moving him out of a tie with Kentucky's Adolph Rupp and putting him just two behind North Carolina's Dean Smith for second place behind Bobby Knight's 902 wins. The Hall of Famer could tie his former longtime rival at home against Elon on Dec. 20, then pass Smith when the Blue Devils face UNC Greensboro on Dec. 29 in the Greensboro Coliseum.
While the Blue Devils ended up with another big-margin victory, they sure missed Irving's baseline-to-baseline speed and ability to push the ball in transition to create easy shots. Normally, the Blue Devils allow Irving to play alongside leading scorer Nolan Smith in what Krzyzewski considers a two-point guard lineup that makes the Blue Devils tougher to defend.
With Irving out, Smith became the primary ballhandler with Seth Curry backing him up. Smith's offense suffered with Irving out; he came in averaging 17.8 points but finished with two points on 0-for-8 shooting, though he did have a career-best 10 assists.
Early on, Duke's offense looked stagnant while settling for 3-pointers -- albeit open ones -- against Bradley's zone defense. Dawkins hit four 3s in the first half, but the rest of the Blue Devils went 1 for 10 from behind the arc and the team shot just 39 percent to take a 32-18 halftime lead.
Of course, everything looked better once those shots started falling after halftime.
"There was just no continuity," Singler said. "We weren't hitting our posts [inside]. It was different without Kyrie out on the court. So just throughout the game, I think we got more comfortable with the lineup we had out on the court. That's a good thing because we are a different team without Kyrie out on the court. The stuff that we're doing is different, so we need to get more familiar with it."
Duke put on a show by making 9 of its first 11 3-point attempts before cooling off in the final seven minutes, though the lead had pushed well past 30 points by that time. Dawkins led the way, knocking down a 3 just 15 seconds into the half while surpassing his previous career-high of 20 points on -- what else? -- a 3 from right in front of Krzyzewski with about 8 minutes left.
"I always feel like if you're going to give me an open shot, I'll knock it down," Dawkins said. "They kept me giving open shots, so I've got to just keep knocking them down."
He wasn't alone. Duke had a run of five straight 3s -- Curry and Singler each made two -- that made it 56-27 with 12:43 left. The shots kept coming, with Singler following Dawkins' career-setter with one of his own that made it 71-34 with 7:15 to go.
"When you watch them on tape, you have to pick your poison," Bradley coach Jim Les said. "People were asking me, 'Well, how are you going to exploit their weakness?' Well, when somebody finds their weakness, they can let me know because I certainly didn't see one."
Walt Lemon Jr. scored 14 points for the Braves, who have lost five straight.
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