After two consecutive losses put his team on the ropes, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr reached deep into his bag of tricks in Game 4 for an adjustment that helped set the tone for the entire contest: putting 7'0 center Andrew Bogut on 6'4 Tony Allen.
Considering the Memphis Grizzlies have one of the biggest and best frontcourts in the league, putting Bogut on Allen and shifting Harrison Barnes to Zach Randolph seemed crazy and reeked of desperation. However, the move worked beautifully, as Bogut spearheaded a superb defensive effort in a 101-84 victory.
While the move looked wacky on the surface, the rationale made it brilliant. Including the playoffs, Allen is 24-of-73 (under 33 percent) on shots outside the paint all season prior to Game 4. With this in mind, the plan was to have Bogut leave Allen on the perimeter so the big man could roam the paint and help on Randolph and Marc Gasol. Bogut didn't really "guard" Allen so much as he was empowered to play a one-man zone. If Allen beat the Warriors from the outside, so be it.
The impact of this decision was noticeable right from the start. On this possession not even two minutes into the game, Allen started camped out in the corner behind the arc and Bogut stayed down near the paint:
As Mike Conley dribbled left toward Allen, Bogut didn't budge:
Gasol rolled to the block as Randolph wheeled to the top of the key to receive a pass from Conley. Yet, the play short-circuits because Bogut continued to ignore Allen and doubled Gasol in the post:
Randolph tried to force the ball into Gasol in the post, but a turnover resulted because there was too much traffic.
Here's another possession a few minutes later. Gasol posted up Draymond Green, but Bogut again stayed put as Allen flared out to the opposite short corner. Barnes left Randolph to go help on Gasol, but because Bogut doesn't care about Allen, it was easy for him to pick up Barnes' assignment.
Gasol eventually found Allen wide open in the corner for three, but that's exactly what the Warriors want. Bogut happily conceded the jumper.
Allen missed the three badly and Barnes got the rebound with the help of Bogut's box out on Randolph.
Allen took four shots in the first quarter, all from outside the paint. He made one pull-up jumper and missed all three of his three-point attempts. All four of those shots were wide open. For the game, the defensive ace shot 2-of-9 in a tick under 16 minutes of play. He essentially became unplayable because of how the Warriors were ignoring him.
In Allen's 16 minutes of play, the Grizzlies scored just 70.7 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com. That was the worst mark on the team. Of course, while not having Allen on the floor may have helped the offense, it also hurt the defense. Memphis' defensive rating jumped from 95.4 with Allen to 107.4 with him on the bench in this game.
Meanwhile, the Warriors allowed just 70.5 points per 100 possessions in Bogut's 30 minutes on the floor, per NBA.com. The Grizzlies shot 37.5 percent from the field for the game, but that number was a woeful 30 percent with Bogut on the court. Memphis shot 39 percent in the paint and committed 16 turnovers with Bogut and the rest of the Warriors' defense swarming everywhere.
Kerr's adjustment to stick the big man on Allen turned out to be a brilliant one and a matchup we'll surely see moving forward in this series. Allen will either have to start knocking down jumpers or his teammates will have to pick up the slack. Conley and Gasol went 11-of-34 combined in Game 4, which doesn't cut it.
It's tougher to get quality shots when Bogut is always roaming the paint, but the Grizzlies will have to find a way.
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