The player that could spark a deep playoff run for the Memphis Grizzlies has never been, and likely never will be, selected as an All-Star. He has never averaged more than 11.5 PPG in a season. He even lost his starting gig this year in favor of a mid-season trade acquisition.
So is the life of a key role-player on a championship hopeful.
Tony Allen has thrust himself into the spotlight as a catalyst behind Memphis’ stellar defensive play, and a huge part of the 2-1 series lead they claimed in their second consecutive overtime victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, 98-95 on Thursday night. The Grizzlies 6th man is averaging 2.3 steals and 7.7 rebounds in the series to compliment his suffocating defense on Thunder superstar Kevin Durant. But, if you know what Allen’s about, those things shouldn’t surprise you in the slightest.
What may surprise (or downright shock) you is that Allen is averaging 12.3 points per game on an efficient 54.8 field goal percentage. The defensive minded guard has found the most of his success near the rim, attempting 18 of his 31 shots from within 5 feet, and converting at a 72.2% clip. This aggressive, efficient play has sparked a team that has been considered offensively challenged at times this season, and added a dimension to the scoring attack that has been missing thus far.
With Marc Gasol (15.3 PPG, 41.7% FG through 3 games), struggling to establish himself as the offensive force the Grizzlies need him to be, Allen filled the void as a compliment to Zach Randolph and Mike Conley in Game 3. He made clutch plays when the club needed him to (see his go-ahead dunk late in the 4th or his pilfer of a ball-handler immediately after), and has assumed the toughest assignment on the court (unless you think guarding KD is a treat). Allen has stepped up in nearly every area imaginable.
Every championship team needs a key role player in their quest for a ring. See last year’s playoffs where Danny Green had the Spurs on the edge of a title, or ‘The Shot’ by Ray Allen in Game 6 of the championship round a season ago. Role players stepping up signify the difference between elite teams, and those that end up competing for a title.
Allen has raised his game to another level thus far, and the Grizzlies are reaping the benefits of his elevated play.