National television audience on TNT. New York Knicks in town. And Grizzlies on a three-game losing streak.
That’s how the stage was set Thursday night at FedExForum. It proved to be to Rudy Gay’s liking (a season-high 26 points), O.J. Mayo’s liking (a season-high 18 points), and even Marreese Speights’ liking (nine rebounds in just 22 minutes).
Result: Grizzlies 94-83, but it wasn’t that close. The Grizzlies led by as many as 25 points and Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni admitted, “We lost a little bit of our spirit.”
They also lost Carmelo Anthony (14 points) to an ankle injury in the third quarter. But even long before then, Melo was too mellow and Amar’e Stoudemire (six points and three rebounds) was inconsequential.
Tony Allen’s take: The Knicks’ spirit was there for the breaking from the opening tip.
“I think we wanted it more than they did today right from the jump,” Allen said.
“To get a win like this helps everything,” said Gay. “We’re still a good team. We showed that (on national TV).”
Certainly, they helped their record. It’s now 4-6 and 1-1 on this four-game homestand; New Orleans comes to FedEx Forum Saturday night and the Chicago Bulls are here for a noon tip Monday on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“We’ve been going through a lot of adversity,” said point guard Mike Conley, who handed out seven assists with just one turnover. “With Zach (Randolph) out, it’s an opportunity for each of us to step up.”
Not only did Gay and Mayo hit season highs, they were efficient. Gay made 11 of 16 shots and Mayo was 7 of 12, 4 of 7 from 3-point range. But Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said of Mayo: “The one thing I’m learning about Juice is that he has to play freely.”
And he did.
“I took four shots against Oklahoma City (Tuesday night) and we lost,” Mayo said. “I just wanted to be aggressive.”
The Grizzlies also were aggressive on the boards, winning the rebound battle 48-41. Center Marc Gasol had 12 to go with 10 points. Even Mayo had eight rebounds.
“It’s a short season,” Mayo said, referring to the lockout-contracted 66-game schedule. “And losing streaks aren’t good in a short season.”