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Seth Curry, Duke’s leader despite being hobbled

Nov 14, 2012, 1:45 AM EDT

State Farm Champions Classic - Duke v Kentucky Getty Images

ATLANTA – Seth Curry is not healthy right now.

Before we get into the 23 points he scored or the four free throws he hit in the final two minutes to help seal No. 9 Duke’s 75-68 win over No. 3 Kentucky on Tuesday night, that much needs to be stated.

Seth Curry isn’t playing at 100%. He’s got a lower leg injury to his right leg that has kept him out of all but four practices, according to Mike Krzyzewski, “and they’ve been like half practices.” If he’s not practicing, than that means he’s not in playing shape. How can he be if he’s only made it halfway through four practices this year?

And despite all of that, Curry put on one of the most impressive performances of his Duke career against the Wildcats. 23 points. 7-for-14 from the floor. Three threes. No turnovers. In a team-high 34 minutes. Against the No. 3 team in the country.

Not bad for a guy that isn’t practicing, isn’t in shape — Coach K said he’s “shocked at the level of his conditioning” — and isn’t healthy.

“He’s put a lot of work into his game, and that’s why I’m down on the fact that he was hurt,” Coach K said. “He’s primed for an amazing year, and he had an amazing game tonight.”

Perhaps the most frustrating part of the injury for Curry is that no one seems to know what exactly is wrong with him. There’s no name that’s been given for it. He has a pain. In his leg. In the shin area. And it hurts. That’s about all we know, but an undiagnosed shin pain isn’t going to keep Alex Poythress from trying to exploit a mismatch against Curry or prevent Archie Goodwin from putting his head down and trying to beat Curry off the dribble. A limp and a compression sleeve won’t keep Julius Mays from pressuring defensively or Nerlens Noel from trying to block his shot.

And Curry not only thrived, but he played his best late in the game.

“Seth was terrific. I think he was the difference in the game,” Coach K said. “I thought he kind of took control of the game. He wanted the ball in his hands and he made veteran, tough plays down the stretch.”

That’s an important piece of the puzzle for the Blue Devils, as the rest of their rotation seems to be coming together quite nicely. Mason Plumlee was absolutely dominant in the paint before getting into foul trouble and losing some of his aggressiveness. Rasheed Sulaimon struggled with his shot early in the game, but he hit two huge threes in Duke’s game-changing 21-7 run and finished the game with six boards, five assists and no turnovers while playing valiant defense on the wing. Quinn Cook provided a spark off the bench and a steady-hand at the point while Ryan Kelly blocked a few shots and hit a couple of jumpers.

And then there’s Curry, to make the tough, veteran plays down the stretch.

The winning plays.

Now just imagine what happens when he gets healthy.