NBA Playoffs: Why Kevin Durant and the Thunder are better prepared for Memphis' defensive pressure

During last year’s season series, Kevin Durant and the Thunder got their first taste of life without Westbrook. And with only one established perimeter threat, Memphis was able to sic Tony Allen on Durant and ratchet up the stress level behind him.
by Anthony Slater Published: April 18, 2014

But is it enough to flip the series result? We’ll see.

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Kevin Durant’s career stats against Tony Allen teams

Regular season

6-9 record

28.1 points per game

7.4 rebounds

3.3 assists

48 percent shooting

27 percent from three

Playoffs

5-7 record

27.4 points

9.7 rebounds

3.6 assists

43 percent shooting

34 percent from three

Durant’s three best games against Allen

3. January 8, 2011 – For the first and only time against a Tony Allen led defense, Durant hit the 40-point mark. In OKC’s 109-100 midseason win, Durant was efficient (13-of-24 shooting) and aggressive (13-of-14 from the line), flustering Allen (four fouls in 18 minutes) and Rudy Gay (fouled out) all night.

2. May 5, 2013 – Because the Thunder went on to fall in five games last May, not many remember Kevin Durant’s sensational Game 1. In a defensive slugfest, he shouldered the load, going off for 35 points, 15 rebounds and six assists, vaulting the Thunder to a 93-91 win, its only of the series.

1. May 15, 2011 – In Game 7 of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals, Durant showed up in the clutchest of ways, burning Allen and the Grizzlies for 39 points on 25 shots and leading his young team to a monumental series win.

Durant’s three worst games against Allen

3. March 7, 2011 – Still in the feeling out process after the Jeff Green-Kendrick Perkins swap, the Thunder fell 107-101 to Memphis in this regular-season duel. Durant struggled to an inefficient 8-of-20 night, while Allen was typically great on defense and surprisingly effective on the other end: 20 points in 31 minutes.

2. May 15, 2013 – Loaded with such a heavy burden after Russell Westbrook went down, Durant faltered in Game 5 of last season’s second-round exit. The Thunder star went 5-of-21 shooting and his team went out quietly.

1. May 13, 2011 – Durant was able to star in Game 7 of the 2011 clash, in part, because he struggled so mightily in Game 6. His line: 3-of-14 shooting, 1-of-9 from three, 11 points in 37 minutes. OKC fell 95-83 to Memphis.

Tayshaun Prince to serve as primary defender

Of the four Thunder-Grizzlies matchups this season, Tony Allen only played in one game and 17 minutes total. He was in and out of the lineup due to various injuries.

So Memphis used Tayshaun Prince as the primary defender on Kevin Durant and, as the Grizzlies’ starting small forward, he’s expected to get plenty of time on Durant in the next two weeks.

Via SportVu’s tracking date, here are Durant’s offensive numbers in the 31 minutes Prince guarded him: 19-of-47 shooting, 4-of-12 from three, 48 points.

A lot of points, but on a very high usage. Solid job by Prince.

by Anthony Slater
Thunder Beat Writer
Anthony Slater started on the Thunder beat in the summer of 2013, joining after two years as NewsOK.com's lead sports blogger and web editor. A native Californian, Slater attended Sonoma State for two years before transferring to Oklahoma State in...
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