Had things turned out differently, we would know too well Rule 12, Section V, item a, from the NBA rulebook:
“An official may assess a technical foul, without prior warning, at any time. A technical foul (s) may be assessed to any player on the court or anyone seated on the bench for conduct, which in the opinion of the official, is detrimental to the game. The technical foul must be charged to an individual.”
Layman’s translation: If Tony Allen is acting all crazy on the sideline, waving a white towel, and a blue warm-up shirt flies out of the towel and on to the court while Derek Fisher is shooting a 3-pointer, the shot will count as good (though Fisher missed it), Allen will be given a T, and Kevin Durant will make the free throw for a four-point play.
This is exactly what happened late in the third quarter of Game 5 at Oklahoma City. It downsized the Grizzlies’ 11-point lead to seven points and was the wind propelling a 13-4 Thunder run that left the Grizzlies with just a two-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter.
Call it a natural disaster on the plains: Tornado Tony.
Asked in the post-game press conference what he said to Allen after the play, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins had a rather reasonable answer: “What the hell are you doing?”
Zach Randolph and Mike Conley each mentioned something about wanting to choke The Grindfather. Yet even before Allen made amends, there was a perfect line on Twitter from @AwillisBigAl: “Tony Allen gives up more points while he’s on the bench then he does when he’s on the floor.”
Fittingly, it would be Allen guarding Durant at game’s end, the Grizzlies’ lead but two points. Durant got the ball and tried to go right. Allen stopped that and who knows what went through Durant’s mind at that moment? The 15 shots he already had missed this night? Allen causing a key turnover at the end of another game in this series?
Durant managed to create space to his left, and get a “good look” from 17 feet out, but his shot carried too far and bounced off the iron. Allen grabbed the rebound, and redemption, as he was fouled and then knocked down two free throws to complete an 88-84 Grizzlies victory that sent them to their first conference finals in the franchise’s 18-year history (don’t forget all that losing back in Vancouver that pre-dated all the losing here).
Allen, as he often is when given the opportunity, was huge down the stretch for the Grizzlies. Conley said Allen “saved” the Grizzlies. Z-Bo called Tony his “hero.”
Just what would Tony Allen the Superhero look like? Would he have a cape on his back, a blue warm-up shirt inexplicably flying out from underneath said cape? To be sure, he would be a Superhero of the people. His Kryptonite would be a wide-open jump shot … or a normal conversation … or having to sit still.
A while back I wrote a story about Allen. I asked him about his All-NBA first-team defense, his missed, uncontested, layups, the whole crazy combination of his game that adds up to what I like to call the Tony Allen Equation – a winning formula that is impossible to define in any sort of new metrics way, but that is just as impossible to deny.
“For the most part,” Allen told me, “I’ll help you more than I hurt you.”
Nothing about that in the NBA rulebook. But in Memphis, it might as well be law.
Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.