OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Tony Allen thought it might have been out of desperation that he ended up guarding Kevin Durant in crunch time.
Whatever it was, it worked out perfectly for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Mike Conley scored 26 points and fueled a late Memphis run while Allen was harassing Durant, and the Grizzlies beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 99-93 on Tuesday night to tie the Western Conference semifinals at one.
Conley hit a 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:58 left to put the Grizzlies ahead, and Allen made it stick with his defense on the three-time scoring champion who had made back-to-back baskets in the final minute to put Oklahoma City on top to stay in Game 1.
This time, Durant missed his final three shots and fell to the floor while committing a turnover against Allen as Memphis reeled off 10 straight points to claim home-court advantage in the series.
Game 3 is Saturday in Memphis.
“He’s a prolific scorer. He’s the best scorer in the league, but the thing I can do out there is probably just cause havoc out there the best that I can,” Allen said.
He certainly did that.
After Conley’s go-ahead 3, Allen went flying to try and block a 3-point response by Durant. It forced Durant to hesitate before he fired an off-target shot, and Conley was able to tack on an 18-foot jumper for a 94-90 Memphis lead with 1:04 to play.
A double-team forced Durant to give the ball up on the next possession, but the Thunder got another chance after rebounding Reggie Jackson’s missed 3-pointer. Durant then went to back in from the left wing against Allen, who pulled away and allowed Durant to fall down. Allen tipped the ball to Marc Gasol for another stop.
“Once he got it, I knew he was going to try to get some contact. The first thing I didn’t want to do was get a foul, so I backed back, he kind of lost his footing and fell and I was able to just run toward the ball and get a deflection,” said Allen, a member of Boston’s NBA title team in 2009.
“You’ve just got to be ready for those types of situations.”
Maybe as a decoy, coach Lionel Hollins had said after Game 1 that he wouldn’t deploy Allen against the taller Durant because the match-up hadn’t gone well during the regular season. Another defensive whiz, Tayshaun Prince, got the primary assignment guarding Durant, along with Quincy Pondexter.
But it was Allen who got the key stops.
“I assume we just got desperate. We just tried some new things on him, put fresher bodies on him,” Allen said.
Durant still ended up with 36 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists. In six games since fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook was lost for the playoffs because of knee surgery, Durant is averaging 35.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists.
“I can carry as much as coach needs me to carry,” Durant said. “I made those shots last game. I missed them this game. I’m just going to continue to keep taking them.”
Durant also missed a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left and Oklahoma City down by five, and — after a pair of Zach Randolph free throws — Allen stepped in front of Durant to steal a pass and provide the finishing touches with a dunk.
Derek Fisher hit a 3-pointer at the final buzzer for Oklahoma City, ending a string of five straight empty possessions.
“After they scored, there was such little time on the clock, we were just trying to get a quick basket,” Durant said, “and it didn’t go so well for us.”
Conley, who outdueled All-Star Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, also had 10 rebounds and nine assists.
“Mike Conley is now one of the top five point guards in the league, whether anybody likes it or not,” Allen said. “I know a lot of people have got their favorites on who they think it should be, but Mike Conley is in that conversation now, being able to do these types of things on the court night in and night out.”
The Grizzlies, who had gotten 52 more shots and 24 more offensive rebounds than Oklahoma City in three regular-season meetings, were back to their usual formula after getting neutralized in those areas in the opener.
Memphis piled up a 48-30 scoring advantage in the paint and also outscored Oklahoma City 23-6 in second-chance points and 18-7 on the fast break.
The Grizzlies also scored 29 points off 21 turnovers by the Thunder, who had just 10 in Game 1.
“We just played kind of our game today,” Hollins said. “It was just gut it out and grind it out, and we were fortunate to get the win.”
Gasol scored 24, Randolph ended up with 15 points and eight rebounds and Allen had 12 points and five steals.
Fisher had 19 points for the Thunder, making four of five 3-point attempts. Kevin Martin, coming off back-to-back 25-point games, scored six on 2-for-11 shooting.
Neither team led by more than seven. Kendrick Perkins provided Oklahoma City its last lead with two free throws with 2:41 to play, after Gasol had answered Durant’s three-point play with one of his own.
Conley connected two possessions later after receiving a pass from a double-teamed Gasol in the lane.
NOTES: Thunder coach Scott Brooks said Westbrook will not be able to travel with the team to Memphis for Games 3 and 4 because of the surgery on his right knee that has sidelined him for the rest of the playoffs. Westbrook has been watching home games from a suite at the arena. “He has a competitive fire that not too many people have,” Brooks said. “There’s no question that that’s what makes him a special player, and he brings it every single night. Not being able to do it obviously is challenging for him, but he’s handling it well.” … Tony Wroten made his first appearance of the series late in the first quarter and immediately stole the ball from Fisher in the backcourt for a layup. … Tulsa Shock first-round draft pick Skylar Diggins watched the game from a courtside seat along the baseline.