OAKLAND, Calif. – Tony Allen sat helplessly while watching his struggling teammates on Wednesday night. A hamstring injury that has lingered more than a week forced Allen to stay on the sideline as his Memphis Grizzlies lost 98-78 to the Golden State Warriors in Game 5 of their Western Conference semifinal.
When the series resumes for Game 6 on Friday, the Grizzlies' season will hang in the balance. Allen, regardless of whatever pain he's feeling, has vowed he'll be back on the court.
"Looking at how we lost today, I want to be out there with my teammates," Allen told Yahoo Sports late Wednesday. "… I am doing this for the guys in that locker room. I've been there with them since Day One. I'd rather be in there in that battle.
"If they say our season is on the line and we need everybody, I'm one of the troops, I'm riding out."
Allen has been a menace defensively against the Warriors during this best-of-seven series. The two-time first-team all-defense selection, however, missed Game 5 because of the left hamstring injury. The Warriors now have a 3-2 series lead and can advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 1976 with a victory at Memphis on Friday night.
With Allen out, Warriors All-Star guard Klay Thompson had his best game of the series with 21 points and three 3-pointers. And even if Allen returns as promised in Game 6, he has no clue what he will be able to give the Grizzlies.
"We really missed Tony tonight," Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said.
The Grizzlies evened the series after causing the Warriors' first loss of the playoffs during a 97-90 victory in Game 2. Allen was the star of the night defensively as he manhandled and intimidated Thompson and the other Warriors guards while finishing with four steals. Unfortunately for Allen, he also suffered a groin injury in the process.
With Allen gimpy since, Joeger broke down how much the injury hurts his team.
"He's the best," Joerger said. "Tremendous defender. He's a warrior. He plays with his heart every single night, and the juice that he brings to a game, especially when we're struggling …
"A guy like that goes and gets a loose ball, dives on the floor, gets a deflection, gets a steal, gets a put-back. Those kind of things really kind of help your team go, 'Yeah, you know what? We can get this done.'"
Allen tried to fight through the injury in the Grizzlies' 99-89 win in Game 3 by causing four steals in 33 minutes, but said he also tweaked his hamstring again. Two days later, he was limited to 16 minutes as the Warriors routed Memphis 101-84 in Game 4 to even the series.
Allen knew he was in trouble in Game 4 when he couldn't dribble past Warriors center Andrew Bogut, who isn't exactly known for his speed.
"It definitely doesn't feel good," Allen told Yahoo Sports. "It didn't feel good last game. I couldn't take off. I had Bogut on me and I couldn't drive past him. My game is cutting, getting offensive rebounds and things of that nature. I felt like I couldn't do it.
"I felt like I couldn't get back in transition. I was limited a little bit with the tweaked hamstring."
Allen was listed as questionable for Game 5 and never went on the court to warm up. After the hamstring tested poorly during exercises in the locker room prior to the game, he decided it was best to not play. Allen watched as the Warriors made nearly half of their field-goal attempts and made 14 3-pointers.
"It's frustrating," Allen told Yahoo Sports. "We got corrective work that I do before I go on the court. Just not being able to get through that was a bad sign for today. It hurt.
"We talk about some of these things in film and in shootaround. It's painful. But I thought I did a good job getting in guys' ears and trying to do the right things defensively with my voice and leadership, giving them something."
Allen won his lone NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008. He and the Celtics returned to the NBA Finals in 2010, but lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. He hasn't been back to the Finals since.
The Grizzlies have never been to the Finals. Now 33, Allen knows this could be his best remaining chance to win a title.
"I definitely respect [this opportunity] because they are never promised," Allen said. "…You don't take this for granted. We have to give it our all the next game and have a grit-and-grind mentality, that one-team and one-goal mentality and fight and claw for a win."
Making matters worse for the Grizzlies is that Allen's backcourt teammate, Mike Conley, also is still injured.
Conley is still recovering from a facial fracture and a sprained right foot. After missing the Game 1 loss, Conley scored 22 points to spark the Grizzlies to a Game 2 win. But over the past three games he has averaged 11.3 points and 5.6 assists against Golden State.
"I know I'm nowhere near 100 percent," Conley told Yahoo Sports. "I told Marc [Gasol] that I wished I had my body from two years ago where nothing was wrong. I could run all day and never get tired. It's a little different."
Allen said he will live in the training room prior to Game 6, getting treatment and massages – and praying. That still might not be enough to completely help Allen, who has an injury best repaired by rest. He also said he'll listen to the Grizzlies' training staff, but added that it's his decision – and he has already decided to play.
"I'm hurt and I'm going to play through this injury," Allen told Yahoo Sports. "Ain't no excuse and I'm going to be out there giving it all I got. All I can do is pray and work with the trainer on things that can help me these next couple of days and just get ready for a battle on Friday.
"I got to give them something. Just my presence, my leadership, I got to be out there."
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