Lost in the hysteria of Kevin Durant drilling the most miraculous shot in Oklahoma City history was another gem of a play by the game’s biggest pest, a player with a penchant for throwing a wrench in the Thunder’s plans.
Just before Durant hit a corner 3-pointer while falling out of bounds and on his bottom, Tony Allen once again blew up a Thunder possession. He tipped a pass from Russell Westbrook to Durant, forcing OKC into scramble mode and Durant into delivering on a desperation fling.
Though the impact of Allen’s defense wasn’t felt when Durant’s shot splashed through the net, a bucket that led to a four-point play and gave the Thunder new life with 13.8 seconds remaining in regulation, it was apparent before and after that basket.
And it’s among the biggest reasons why the Thunder is headed to Memphis on Thursday needing a win to regain home-court advantage after a 111-105 overtime loss to the Grizzlies in Game 2 on Monday inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“Some guys are just special. That was just one of those special plays,” Allen said of Durant’s shot. “He made it to help his team dig into our lead. Basically, we didn’t never get discouraged. We knew it was a lot of basketball left and we just wanted to close it out in Grizzlies fashion.”
Allen is that face of Memphis’ style.
And now it appears the Thunder has a problem.
Allen hounded Durant all night with his patented brand of physical defense. He glued himself to Durant, locking and chasing him on screens, holding his ground in the post and contesting shots as best he could despite yielding at least five inches.
Allen deflected his well-deserved credit after the game. But is impact was clear to everyone with a working set of eyes.
“It’s just a competition at the end of the day. It’s ain’t about me,” Allen said. “It’s about the Grizzlies coming in here basically playing grit-and-grind basketball and holding our hats on the defensive end. We got schemes that we tried to take advantage of on the defensive end. All we could do is hope for the best when he shoots it as far as making him miss.”