Why the Grizzlies Can't Win Without Tony Allen

Thanks to his defense, Tony Allen may be the most important player in the Thunder vs. Grizzlies series.

So far in the Thunder vs. Grizzlies series, Kevin Durant has really filled up the stat sheet. The league's likely MVP has dropped at least 30 points and eight rebounds in each of the first three games of this series, averaging 33 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 2.3 blocks and a steal per game. At face value, it seems as though Durant has been tremendously effective and is having a huge impact on this series. But if you take a closer look, you will realize that is not exactly the case.

Yes, KD did drop 30 points and 9 rebounds in Game 3, but he did so incredibly inefficiently. Durant had one of the worst shooting nights of his career, knocking down only 10 of his 27 shots, missing all eight of his three-point attempts. Similarly, Durant struggled from the field in the Thunder's Game 2 loss in Oklahoma City, shooting 12 of 28 from the field.

Why has Durant struggled to shoot the ball recently, you ask? While it's certainly possible that KD is simply in a bit of a shooting slump, the much more likely scenario is that he is truly bothered by Tony Allen's hounding defense. Due to his grinding defensive style, Allen has been dubbed "The Grindfather", and boy has he earned that nickname against Durant.

Allen, who was a first-team All-NBA defensive performer each of the past two years, has, for the most part, been on an island with Durant all series. And despite giving up nearly half a foot in size to Durant, he's done an outstanding job slowing the NBA scoring champion down.

Take a look at Durant's past 15 games in which he was not guarded by Allen:


In those 15 games, Durant was only held under 45 percent from the field four times, a feat that Allen has accomplished in each of the past two games. Both Memphis wins. Additionally, with the first three games of this series all being razor-close contests, Durant has been forced to take more shots than he would hope. In the five games during this 15-game stretch where KD was forced to take at least 27 shots, his scoring outputs were 42, 38, 38, 43 and 51. While Durant has been able to eclipse 30 points in both Thunder losses, neither the 36 points he scored in Game 2 or the 30 he scored in Game 3 reached any of his point total from similar games over this 15-game stretch.

The Grindfather has done a tremendous job of fighting through screens, staying with Durant, forcing him into low-percentage shots and contesting them all series, which has led to KD's low shooting percentage and general frustration. Additionally, Allen's tenacity and energy on defense has really carried over to the offensive end in Memphis' two wins, especially in the most recent contest. After the Thunder went on a 17-0 run to tie the game at 81 late in the fourth quarter of Game 3, Allen was able to get two key buckets after making huge defensive stops, including one in transition after stripping the ball from Westbrook, which helped stop the bleeding and ultimately drove the game into overtime.

Additionally, the Grizzlies' guard has been incredibly efficient on offense. While he may only be averaging 12.3 points per game through the first three games of this series, he's doing so while shooting 54.8 percent from the field on only 10.3 shots per game. Allen has also been outstanding on the boards and has shared the basketball well, adding 7.6 boards and 2.3 dimes per game so far this series.

In his series preview, Justin Elick told us that, in order for the Grizzlies to win, they had to dictate the tempo on defense. So far this series they have, and it's started with Tony Allen. Despite being the Grizzlies' fourth or fifth option on the offensive end, The Grindfather has found a way to put his stamp on every single game so far this series. Allen has played lock-down defense and brought a tremendous amount of energy to the offensive end. Without him, the Grizzlies are a completely different team, and would probably find themselves in a hole rather than in control of this series.