Offense has never been Tony Allen's thing. His hitchy jumper looks like a pre-pubescent teenager's when attempting shots out of his range. His usual offensive approach is to treat the ball like hot coal. His fast breaks yield new, unpredictable adventures. The nervous energy that suits him so well defensively becomes awkward on the other end.
Which is why watching Allen become a scoring machine over the past couple weeks has been so startling.
Some quick background: the Grizzlies have been decimated by injuries. Franchise center Marc Gasol is out of for the year and point guard Mike Conley hasn't played in over two weeks. Zach Randolph, the team's emotional backbone, has been in and out of the lineup, as has backup Chris Andersen. Mario Chalmers, a critical backup guard having his best NBA season, tore his Achilles and is done for the year. The Grizzlies have used 24 different starting lineups this season and have five undrafted players on the current roster. Only the Wizards have lost more games due to injuries.
Those injuries have forced Memphis to make a playoff push while relying heavily on a starting point guard on a 10-day contract in Ray McCallum and a previously anonymous power forward named JaMychal Green. For the Grizzlies to somehow stay in the thick of the playoff race, they needed one of their few remaining veterans to step up and help carry the offensive load. Maybe Vince Carter could turn back the clock? Maybe Matt Barnes could get hot? Maybe the recently acquired Lance Stephenson could rediscover his dynamic ways? (The latter has, to some degree.)
Instead, the veteran that stepped up most is the one with among the worst offensive pedigrees in the league.
Ten days ago, Allen returned from a knee injury and decided this would be his time to shine. The same player that was treated as a complete non-entity by the Warriors in last year's playoffs is now scoring 15 points on 53 percent shooting since rejoining the lineup. Over that span, 20 percent of Grizzlies possessions are ending with the ball in his hands, a 4 percent uptick from where that number was beforehand. Most startling: the Grizzlies are scoring nearly 11 more points per 100 possessions with Allen on the court, per NBA.com.
Memphis may be just 4-6 over this span, but that's still damn impressive considering their shallow roster. Also, the Grizzlies are still 41-31 and in fifth place in the Western Conference, still within striking distance (3.5 games) of the No. 4 Clippers.
Ultimately, Tuesday night's 107-100 road loss to the hapless Lakers was a disappointing result for the Grizzlies. For NBA fans, though, it was a sight to behold. There was Tony Allen, attacking the rim, stopping, gathering and kissing a floater off the glass. There was Tony Allen, coming off a screen and knocking down a pull-up jumper. He even posted up Lou Williams multiple times.
On another possession, he took the ball to the hoop, stopped, spun and did his best Kobe Bryant imitation.
And speaking of Bryant ...
First time in 33 career meetings that Tony Allen (27) out scored Kobe Bryant (20).— Josh Eberley (@JoshEberley) March 23, 2016
Allen once buttered his bread on perfectly timed backdoor cuts and the occasional wild drive to the rim. Those plays haven't gone anywhere, nor has his first-team All-Defense. Now, though, all that subtle brilliance is being buttressed by shots like this.
Allen finished the night with a game-high 27 points on a perfect 12-for-12 from the field. No player has made more shots in a perfect shooting performance this season, per ESPN Stats & Info. He's scored at least 20 points three times in the last 10 games. That's three more times than he did in the previous four years.
Has Allen suddenly morphed into a scoring machine, or is this just another example of NBA players being so talented as a group that anyone could put up numbers if given the chance? The answer is probably somewhere in between.
For now, though, such questions are besides the point. Instead of trying to figure out the science behind an ocean-side sunset, just appreciate its beauty. Tony Allen is carrying the Grizzlies offense down the stretch, and we're just sitting back and enjoying the show.
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