Tony Allen's Strategy: Denying Durant the Ball

Grizzlies' Allen Stifles Durant's Offense in Pivotal Playoff Showdowns

by Nouman Rasool
Tony Allen's Strategy: Denying Durant the Ball
© Giorgio Perottino/Getty Images for OGR

In the high-stakes arena of professional basketball, few match-ups have captured the attention of fans and analysts quite like the defensive masterclass Tony Allen, famously known as the Grindfather, delivered against one of the game's most prolific scorers, Kevin Durant.

Standing at seven feet with the agility of a small forward and the precision of a guard, Durant's scoring prowess is legendary. Yet, Allen's strategic approach to defense showcased a level of ingenuity that made him a standout defender against Durant's offensive onslaught.

Speaking on The Forgotten Seasons podcast, Allen shared insights into his methodology for containing Durant, emphasizing the crucial role of ball denial. "We knew Kevin Durant was the first option," Allen explained, detailing his refusal to allow Durant easy possession of the ball, even if it meant conceding points to other players.

Allen's strategy was to disrupt the normal flow of the game for Durant, forcing the Oklahoma City Thunder to find alternative scoring routes. "Ibaka, you can get you a dunk, but Kevin Durant isn't touching it," Allen remarked, underlining his commitment to this defensive tactic.

This approach was put to the test during the memorable first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs between Allen's Memphis Grizzlies and Durant's Thunder. Despite the Thunder clinching the series 4-3, Durant's scoring efficiency dipped significantly, from leading the league at 50.3% shooting to just 44% in the seven-game skirmish, thanks in no small part to Allen's relentless defense.

Defensive Masterclass: Allen

Allen's prowess wasn't limited to just one playoff series. He mirrored this defensive excellence in the 2013 playoffs, causing a noticeable decline in Durant's shooting efficiency in the critical final games of the series.

Durant himself has acknowledged Allen's defensive acumen, stating on the Million Dollaz Worth of Game podcast that Allen was the toughest defender he's ever faced, forcing him to adapt his game significantly. Despite not achieving the same level of stardom in the NBA as he did in college, Allen's defensive skills earned him widespread respect among his peers and six All-Defensive Team honors.

His unique approach to defense, particularly his focus on denying Durant the ball, highlights a strategic depth that goes beyond physical prowess, underscoring the cerebral aspects of basketball defense. Allen's legacy, therefore, isn't just defined by his accolades but also by the high regard in which he's held by one of the game's greatest scorers.