It happens at least once every year that the Grizzlies are in the playoffs. Kevin Durant goes 6-of-24 from the floor, Tony Parker turns the ball over eight times, or, as was the case last night, the Golden State Warriors only score 90 points at home. These are the kinds of oddities that make fans of those teams and players wonder what the hell went wrong, and the answer is usually simple: Tony Allen happened.
Broken-faced Mike Conley donning the mask and scoring 22 points in 27 minutes had a whole lot to do with the Grizzlies’ surprising Game 2 victory over the Warriors, but what everyone will remember from this game will be Tony Allen ripping the ball away from Klay Thompson like a linebacker saving his team at the goal line, and then (thank God he was mic’d up) letting everyone know exactly where he ranks among the NBA’s best defensive players.
The two plays above stand out, but Allen’s night was about so much more than two steals and a dunk. If you’ve got the time and the inclination, go back and watch the third quarter of last night’s game, and just keep your eyes on Allen on every possession. He spent the whole quarter hounding Klay Thompson all over the court, sucking every bit of oxygen out of the deadly shooter’s game. Allen refused to be screened, and was right on Thompson’s hip every time he caught the ball in spots that usually lead to open shots. With Allen in his face, all Thompson could do was pass or turn it over, and he finished the quarter 0-of-1 from the floor with three turnovers. The one shot he did take, a three from the corner after a Steph Curry kick-out, was blocked by Allen. Defense doesn’t get more clean or devastating than this.
I’ve harped on this before, but it’s these types of performances that make Allen so much fun to watch. It’s not just that he can singlehandedly fry a team’s offensive wiring (though it is a little bit that), or that he carries himself on the court like a jolly granddad (okay, it’s a lot of bit of that), but that he plays with such tenacious precision. Allen isn’t a goon or a cheap-shot artist; he’s a guy who has mastered the art of perimeter defense, and when he’s on like he was last night, it’s hard not to root for him.