Oklahoma City Thunder: No matter what Lionel Hollins said, Memphis' Tony Allen showed he could still guard Kevin Durant

by Jenni Carlson Published: May 8, 2013

To hear Memphis coach Lionel Hollins tell it after Game 1, Tony Allen had as much hope of guarding Kevin Durant as Woody Allen.

After the Grizzlies defensive whiz barely guarded the Thunder superstar on Sunday, Hollins was reminded that Allen had done a pretty decent job against Durant in the past.

“That's a few years ago,” Hollins interjected, curtly.

So, what changed?

“Durant's a few years older,” Hollins said, even more curtly.

So, Durant's too big?

“When we put him on him during the season, he just took him to the post,” Hollins explained of how the 6-foot-9 Durant countered the 6-4 Allen. “It causes us to help way too much when Durant's in the post against a smaller guy.”

What the coach said then seems like some sort of ruse now. After Allen locked down Durant in the final minutes of Game 2, you have to wonder if Hollins was trying to motivate Allen, hoping that his words would get back to the former Oklahoma State Cowboy, hoping that his defensive devil would play like one against Durant.

That's how Allen played Tuesday night. He put the brakes on Durant's big night when it mattered most.

So, what are we to make of Tony Allen now?

For starters, he's still an elite defender. His defensive genius is something that we've known about in these parts for years. We saw it time and again during his days in Stillwater.

There was a January game in Manhattan, Kan., during the Cowboys' masterful 2003-04 season that Allen ended with a block. He swatted a potential game-winning 3-pointer with 5 seconds left. Who even attempts that play, much less makes it? On the road, no less.

And if anyone ever doubted Allen's defensive aplomb, just look at the Cowboys without him.

In 2004-05, OSU had largely the same team that went to the Final Four the season before. John Lucas. The Graham brothers. Ivan McFarlin. Daniel Bobik. But they lost to Arizona in the Sweet 16 when Salim Stoudamire hit a 15-footer with 2.8 seconds left.

You suppose Allen might've done something about that shot had he still been in orange and black?

The guy was a pest in college.

Still is.

Tuesday night, Durant was doing Durant things. With 3:18 left in the game, he converted a three-point play and ran his point total to a whopping 36. By the next time the Thunder had the ball again, Allen had checked in the game and started guarding Durant.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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