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Tony Allen Eyeing Doc's Rotation

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Tony Allen stepped onto the court against the Houston Rockets last night and did what both Marquis Daniels and Nate Robinson could not. He scored the ball (12 points), out-rebounded Kevin Garnett (5-3), found ways to get his mates involved in the action (3 assists), and was a nagging in thorn in Houston's red-hot paw (5 steals, 1 block, textbook defense on Aaron Brooks's game-tying three-pointer at the tail end of regulation. Great offense just beat great defense). 

The past five games have been a whirlwind for the likes of Allen, Daniels, and Robinson. Their minutes have been scattered, largely due to an overall lack of production, particularly on the part of Daniels and Robinson. As Allen and Rajon Rondo were acting as a two-man fast break wrecking crew against the Denver Nuggets back on March 24 (15 assists for Rondo, 13 points for Allen), I tweeted: "Did Tony Allen just work his way back into Doc's rotation?"

The statement's not as crazy as it might sound, largely due to the fact that Allen's the one handling the inconsistent minutes the best out of the backup trio.

March 26 vs. Sacramento Kings: Tony Allen plays 12 minutes, scores six points and grabs four rebounds. Marquis Daniels finds six minutes of playing time and puts in a practically useless two points. Nate Robinson, in a breathtaking seven minutes, scores a point. 

Daniels was clearly still in Doc's doghouse, seeing as he didn't check into the game until there was just 2:33 left in the third quarter, while Robinson sprained his ankle in the second quarter and didn't return. This would be the start of a 2-14 shooting stretch for Robinson, that would carry over through the next three games.

March 28 vs. San Antonio Spurs: Tony Allen plays nine minutes, scores six points, and grabs three rebounds. Daniels doubles his minutes at 12, and manages four points. Robinson, back from the ankle sprain, is held scoreless in 13 minutes. 

March 31 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder: Tony Allen does not play a single minute. Daniels is, for whatever reason, rewarded with 15 minutes and musters a mere two points while picking up three fouls. Robinson hits one of his five shot attempts, scores two points and hands out four assists in 12 minutes. 

Doc gave Daniels an opportunity over these two games to try and get himself back on track. To try and be the Daniels the C's thought they signed over the summer. The one who slashes, cuts, scores, defends, and penetrates. Realistically, he's in there somewhere, and Doc probably played him in the hopes that he would work his way out of his funk. Doc knows what kind of player he's got in Daniels, and he still could prove to be a very valuable asset in the post season. The problem is, Daniels simply isn't playing like the player he's supposed to be, and his value to this team is dropping accordingly. We've joked somewhat in the past about Tony Allen playing like "Bad TA", meaning his play is marred by turnovers and frustrating basketball mistakes. Well, "Bad Marquis" isn't necessarily turnover prone, but rather, he's simply a non-factor on the court. He's not doing much of anything to help the team win, and that's obviously the last thing you want out of who was supposed to be your prized reserve at the start of the season. 

April 2 vs. Houston Rockets: Tony Allen's back in action. In 28 minutes he drops 12 points, grabs four rebounds, dishes out three assists, and swipes the ball from Houston five times, tying Rondo for game-high honors. Daniels, seeing much more pine than time, plays a these-days-deserving six minutes, and scores just two points. He is seen clapping for Allen following a slam off a feed from Kevin Garnett with 3:47 left in the second quarter. Robinson is all but a no-show once again, scoring just three-points in nine minutes. 

All three of these guys have been subject to a small case of adversity lately, in terms of minutes played and overall production. But unquestionably, Allen has responded the best out of the three. So, with seven games remaining, let's briefly turn the conversation back towards Doc's playoff rotation. He acknowledged before the game last night that it's not a concern of his, but personally, I'm becoming more and more concerned with the play of Daniels and Robinson. Every second of every minute of every game counts in the postseason, and you don't want to enter the real games with any uncertainties. You want to have confidence in the guys coming off the bench, and right now a distinct lack of faith in Daniels and Robinson is growing, while Allen's stock is climbing. 

Daniels's ineffectiveness and Robinson's 2-14 shooting slump over his last four contests are clear examples of the type of play you do not want to see out of two of your supposed best bench players heading into the playoffs. I mean, am I the only one who misses Eddie House these days? What's done is done, but if Robinson doesn't pick up his play, that's one trade we could seriously start to question when the season's over, if we're not already doing so. 

Meanwhile, Michael Finley continues to be a reliable asset, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he's leapfrogged Daniels on the depth chart at this point. 

 But Allen, meanwhile, has not only played the best out of the three lately, but he's playing like he wants the spot more than the other two. He's playing with passion, energy, and a renewed sense of urgency, and Doc's taking notice: 

"[Tony Allen is] going to play. Whether Marquis plays or Nate [Robinson] doesn't play, one of them isn't playing, but, right now, Tony plays because he plays hard."

Allen also deserves credit not only for staying consistent in the wake of these recent inconsistent minutes, but for not getting completely discouraged a week or two back when Finley was taking all of his minutes in an effort to get acclimated with the system. The minutes are starting to balance back out in that regard, and Tony's still as tenacious as ever. 

With seven games left, we might see Doc make one last ditch effort to throw extra minutes at Daniels and Robinson to see if they can work their way out of their respective slumps. Or, we might not. Keep an eye on who from the second unit spends time on LeBron James tomorrow when the Cavs come to town. That could also be another clue as to who we'll see come playoff time. But right now, Tony Allen's the guy, and as long as he continues to play the way he's played of late (attention to defense, sprinting out on the fast break with Rondo and converting easy buckets, limiting his turnovers), he should get the spot in the rotation.