Lionel Hollins has gotten the Memphis Grizzlies within a win of reaching the Western Conference Finals, a place the franchise has never been. His team has thoroughly outplayed a Thunder team that includes Kevin Durant, who is performing at a higher level than he ever has before. Yet that success should not insulate Hollins from criticism for some very curious decisions.
Channeling a petulant player rather than the even-keeled personality one would expect out of a coach, Hollins led the Grizzlies’ post-trade whining after Rudy Gay was sent to Toronto in midseason. He has scoffed at statistical analysis even as his team’s owner and front office have obviously doubled down on the NBA equivalent of “Moneyball,” and he has left his most crucial wing defender on the bench at key moments against the Thunder.
Tony Allen is very much a part of the Grizzlies’ postseason rotation now, though, and the fact that the Grizzlies hold a 3-1 advantage is no coincidence. Just ask Durant, who has been far less effective when the NBA All-Defensive first teamer has been covering him.
“He’s a good defender, but they’re a team,” Durant told The Oklahoman. “They do a great job. They’re not going to let me play one-on-one with anybody. But he’s tough because he’s small and he gets up under you and he’s good at contesting shots.”
Allen played less than two minutes in the fourth quarter of Game 1 — the only game in the series Oklahoma City has won — and he spent an inordinate amount of time on the bench in Game 4 on Monday. (Allen played just 13 minutes in the second half of that game while Jeryd Bayless played more than 17 minutes, going 1-for-6 from the field in the process.) He did manage to harass Durant in the time he was on the court, however, forcing the slinky star to shoot less than 50 percent in the second half. If Allen is the only person who can stop Durant, it appears Hollins is the only person who can stop Allen from stopping Durant.
Fortunately for the Grizzlies, Hollins is doing a poor job of that.
Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.