The Golden State Warriors may have found the perfect plan for neutralising Tony Allen, the Grizzlies player that’s been shutting down the Warriors offence.
In a huge Game 4 win for the Warriors Monday night, Golden State used a radical defensive plan that took Allen out of the game: they ignored him.
To start the game, the Warriors used a quirky defensive scheme and had 7’0″ center Andrew Bogut defend the 6’4″ Allen by giving him tons of space on offence, allowing him room to shoot uncontested shots.
Allen, who struggles offensively and lacks a reliable jump shot, hoisted open jumpers and missed, finishing 2-9 on the night and playing only 16 minutes. As a result, the Grizzlies’ offence came to a halt, and when they had to take Allen out, they also lost their best defender.
In the first quarter, Allen hit his first jump shot, but then proceeded to miss his next four shots of the half.
The strategy for the Warriors was to pack the paint, making for tougher post play for the Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. In the process, they baited Allen into taking open jumpers:
Bogut completely ignored Allen, not even looking at him as he lined up the three-pointer:
Below, Bogut helps far off Allen to keep Gasol from getting an open roll into the lane. Not only does it prevent Gasol from going further into the paint, when Allen hoists the jumper, there are four Warriors in there to help secure the rebound.
If Allen had decided to dump the ball down low to Randolph, Bogut was there to double:
The Warriors 5-on-4 defence also forced players into bad shots when they went away from Allen. Here, Marc Gasol, who shot just 7-19 on the night, is forced into a low-percentage pull-up jumper from an awkward distance because Bogut is waiting for him closer to the rim.
Bogut wasn’t even guarding Allen close to the rim (where Allen is a threat). Instead, he blocks off the paint for Gasol (who’s a better scorer at the rim than Allen), while Draymond Green does a nice job running Gasol off of a simple catch-and-shoot jumper, forcing him into a tough pull-up:
After the game, Allen told ESPN’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss that his game was an aberration: “It didn’t affect nothing. It’s I just wasn’t able to give my team the energy tonight. I like that matchup, so hopefully they will do it again and I’ll take advantage of it.”
“We had a game plan to pack the paint. I started on Tony Allen and that threw them off a little bit. I was just roaming around being the help defender and letting Tony Allen shoot. We were daring Tony Allen and a couple of other guys to shoot 3s. If they made them, we were going to live with it. If he scores 20 by knocking down 3s and jumpers, we’ll give them the seed to the next round.
“They sat him down. They took him out of the game to get their offence flowing, and that’s better for us because he’s their best defender. There were quirky matchups.”
The Warriors-Grizzlies series has been one of the most interesting in the playoffs because the two teams’ styles contrast each other. While the Warriors rely on a fast-paced, spread-out offence with a bunch of three-pointers, the Grizzlies prefer to grind out games with tough defence and dominant post play.
The Warriors were a better defensive team in the regular season than the Grizzlies, but they didn’t have the size to match up with Memphis down low in the first three games. By playing off Allen, they’re taking away the Grizzlies’ biggest advantage and sending an extra defender to help out on Randolph and Gasol.
The only way Memphis can break this is by hoping Allen can discover a consistent shooting stroke or replacing him with better shooters. If Memphis has to replace Allen, they lose their best perimeter defender in the process, and they don’t have the offence to out-gun Golden State.
Though the series is tied at 2-2, the Warriors may have found the most pivotal scheme of the series.
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