The Lead: The story of last night's game was Rudy Gay and Tony Allen forming a frequently destructive defensive tandem.
With usual starter Xavier Henry out with a bruised knee and coach Lionel Hollins opting to keep O.J. Mayo in his sixth-man role, Sam Young, rather than Allen, got the start at the two-guard position. This essentially put Allen in the role of the team's fifth wing player and he didn't enter the game until about three minutes into the second quarter. And yet, but the end of the night, Allen had played a season-high 34 minutes, registering 14 points (5-9 shooting), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 6 steals.
The Grizzlies got off to a sluggish start, falling behind 22-10 late in the first quarter, and were down 31-20 when Allen made his first appearance at the 8:51 mark of the second quarter. But over the next five minutes, Allen and Gay lead a 16-3 Grizzlies run to take the lead, blitzkrieging the Raptors' offense to the tune of six combined steals, three of them leading to transition dunks, including a climatic Gay steal in which he fed Allen for a dunk to put the Griz up 36-34.
On the night, Allen and Gay played together — by my count — for 29 minutes, during which the Grizzlies outscored the Raptors 71-46 and the duo combined for 9 of their 11 steals. These 29 minutes also included a three-and-a-half minute stretch in which Hollins scrapped back-up point guard Greivis Vasquez' usual second-half minutes and instead experimented with a big lineup that put Gay, Allen, and O.J. Mayo together along the perimeter — with Gay essentially playing point-forward. The Griz looked good in this configuration, outscoring the Raptors 5-2, with Gay registering an assist.
Might we see this look again?
"Maybe," Gay said after the game, acknowledging that the team has worked on the lineup in practice. "It's all about coach and how he feels," he continued, with a sly smile. "Whether he wakes up on the wrong side of the bed, the right side of the bed, on the bed. You never know."
As for Hollins, he said after the game that he went with that lineup because match-ups allowed it and he wanted to go with a better defensive lineup.
[Rudy] had [Raptors forward Linas] Kleiza guarding him. I didn't think Kleiza was pressuring him," Hollins said. "Some teams put more pressure on you. They were playing a lot of zone and a lot of loose man-to-man, so there's not any ball pressure. So anybody can bring to ball up and get us into the offense. If teams are pressuring you and have a quick point guard guarding a non-ball-handler, it's a little bit different, so you do need a point guard [on the floor]. But tonight I thought we could get away with it, plus I really liked our defense."
Man of the Match: Tony Allen had his best game of the season and Zach Randolph rebounded from a terrible first half to lead the team in scoring with 21 points, but Rudy Gay was plainly the player of this game. Playing everything from point forward in big lineups to power-forward in a game-closing small lineup, Gay played 40 minutes, filling up the stat sheet with 18 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 5 steals, and a block.
The biggest difference for Gay this season is that he's finally starting to use his athleticism to impact the game beyond just scoring. He now has 4 or more steals in each of his past four games. He's had games of 4, 5, and 6 blocked shots. And his seven games of 4 or more assists is only two shy of his total for all of last season.
"It's all about me being more versatile," Gay said after the game. I want to be known as more of a scorer. All my life, I've been bigger than people and been able to get to the rim, so that's what I've been asked to do. But now it's about me adding more to my game and helping my team in more ways.
Nightly Number: With Gay and Allen's steals leading the way, the Grizzlies forced 25 Toronto turnovers. Despite shooting 50% from the floor and grabbing 10 offensive rebounds, the Raptors scored only 86 points, and this was the main reason why. The Grizzlies lead the league in this category.
The Match-Up: Raptors forward Linas Kleiza battled Rudy Gay tonight, scoring a game-high 22 points on 10-16 shooting, but he didn't do much else. He was quite physical denying Gay post-position, which led to a bit of fourth-quarter jawing between the two players, a potential skirmish that was cooled off by noted peacemaker Zach Randolph. Near the end of the game, the outcome no longer in doubt, Gay and Kleiza found themselves standing side by side awaiting an O.J. Mayo free throw. Kleiza smiled at Gay and rubbed his head.
The Jacob Riis Report: Tiger Hero Joey Dorsey got the start for a depleted Raptors team and acquitted himself well. Dorsey fouled out in 30 minutes, but scored 10 points on 5-6 shooting and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds, with 3 assists and a block. Much to my surprise, Dorsey seems to be finally establishing himself as a useful role player in the NBA. Unsurprisingly, he got a big ovation from the Memphis crowd.
Tweet O’ the Game: Joey Dorsey has played really well, like a starting 5 tonight. Hasheem Thabeet has not played, at all. — @HPBasketball
Arena Action: @HPBasketball is the nom de Twitter of CBS Sports blogger Matt Moore, who was in the house last night for his first — but not last — on-duty visit to FedExForum.
Where They Stand: At 14-17, the Grizzlies are 10th in the Western Conference, two games back of the 8th-place Portland Trailblazers.
Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies look to extend to a three-game winning streak in a road game against the struggling Sacramento Kings tomorrow night.
Announced Attendance: 14,971. Inflated as always, but definitely a better-than-expected crowd for a Monday night game against perhaps the least glamorous opponent in the league.
Hasheem Thabeet's DNP tonight was more curious than normal, with Hamed Haddadi entering the game at garbage time rather than Thabeet. Normally, fan conspiracies about players being held out because of trade negotiations are unfounded. But this time, I wonder.
Moore talks to Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph about contraction.