Playoff time might as well be called Tony Allen time. The past few playoff runs, Tony Allen has helped the Grizzlies amp up their defense and has given the team a tremendous jolt of energy during crucial stretches. The 2015 Western Conference Semi Finals against Golden State has only allowed Tony Allen to shine even more so against high caliber opponents such as Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. In the first game of the series, Tony had a total of 3 steals, and in Game 2 he had 4. So far in this postseason, he's averaging 2.7 steals a game, which leads the league.
Grizzlies fans recall last postseason when Tony Allen shut down Kevin Durant for much of the seven game playoff series, so it comes as no surprise to Grizz Nation when Allen shut down Klay Thompson Tuesday night in Oracle Arena. Thompson was 6-15 from the field and only 1-6 from three. Allen had Thompson shooting cold Tuesday night, and he seemed to be getting into his opponent's head.
What made Tuesday night's performance memorable (and entertaining) was the fact that Tony Allen had a mic on during the match and some awesome sound bites were captured. But these phrases capture the essence of what is Tony Allen: all heart, grit and grind.
His key phrase of Tuesday night's match was "First Team All Defense." In the best way, that phrase rang true. Tony was all over the place. He was cutting to the basket. He was pumping up his team. He was wreaking havoc. For example, Allen robbed Klay Thompson on this play:
Even in Sunday's game, he played good defense in the Grizzlies loss. He also made some "friends" along the way as he stumbled into a group of Junior Dancers at the game. From then on, he became Oracle Arena's #1 enemy:
But Tuesday night's performance was one of the most memorable Tony Allen performances we'll ever see. His antics, his heart, and his hustle were all part of his incredible night. After Tony Allen was booed on Sunday for his stumbling into the dancers, he seemed to use the Oracle Arena's boos to fuel his game. On Tuesday, they continued to boo him, but Tony Allen deflected the jeers. He seemed to play better under this blanket of hate, and he put his chants of "First Team All Defense" into his actions. On the offensive end, he had 15 points on Sunday and 9 on Tuesday. He continued to cut to the basket and grab fast break points, which created a new kind of threat. No, he doesn't shoot jumpers, but the Warriors were on their toes watching for Tony Allen to flash past them for an open bucket by the rim. After coming back from a hamstring injury in the Portland series, Tony has seemed back to his old top-tier defensive self the past couple of games.
Another great example of how Tony Allen helped to shut down the Splash Brothers on Tuesday night was this play:
Two Golden State players seem to have Tony Allen sealed off just enough so that Steph can get off a good shot. And we all know that Curry doesn't need much space to knock down a three. However, Tony Allen breaks through:
Tony Allen comes rushing up to Steph, and he has his hand literally just a few inches from Steph's face and does not foul:
...And Steph Curry misses the shot.
According to NBA Stats, Tony Allen is forcing his opponent to shoot -15.6% less than their normal field goal percentage in the past two games. In addition, Allen is forcing Golden State players to shoot -42.6% less from beyond the arc. He's forcing Klay off the three point line or forcing him to take a contested three pointer almost every possession. In fact, he is making Thompson's life a nightmare on the court. I wouldn't be surprised if Thompson had bad dreams with Tony Allen appearing at every turn after Tuesday night's game. The Grindfather showed up on the biggest stage in basketball: the playoffs. He was spotlighted on national TV, and he helped the Grizzlies grab a crucial win at Oracle Arena. Though Klay might not be quite as cold from the field on Saturday, there's no doubt that the Grindfather will deploy all of his defensive powers on Thompson and make his life extremely difficult as well as wear him down as the game goes on.
So far in this series, Tony Allen has also proved his "clutch" abilities. And no, I'm not talking about him making a huge three pointer with a minute to go in the game. Instead, I'm talking about the way he changed the course of Game 2 multiple times throughout the course of the 48 minutes. Time after time, as the Warriors were making a run or gaining an ounce of hope, Tony Allen smashed their dreams to pieces with a huge steal or forcing Klay Thompson to take an ill-advised one-footed three pointer. Whenever the Grizzlies needed him, Tony was there. Mike Conley's return gave the Grizzlies a tremendous emotional boost, but Tony Allen contributed heavily to Tuesday night's win. For example, in the second quarter the Warriors cut the deficit to four points. But on the next two Grizzlies possessions, Tony Allen scored two buckets, one of which was an and 1. In the second half, the Warriors rallied to cut the lead to nine points in the fourth quarter, but Tony Allen stole the ball from a poor Steph Curry pass and converted the fast break bucket. Time and time again, Tony Allen shows up from Memphis when they need him, especially in the playoffs. The Grizzlies are going to need a lot more performances from Allen like Tuesday night's showing if they want to pull the upset and win this series. In the playoffs where each defensive possession becomes more important than the last, Tony Allen thrives on playing lock down defense. And there's no doubt that the cheers from the Grindhouse on Saturday will fuel him even more so than the boos did at Oracle Arena.