Gay scores 20 points, paces Grizzlies in victory over short-handed Rockets

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- O.J. Mayo and the Memphis Grizzlies used a quick start to put away the injury-depleted Houston Rockets.

Rudy Gay scored 20 points, Mayo and Hakim Warrick had 18 points apiece, and The Grizzlies scored the first 10 points Monday night in a 109-97 win over the Rockets, who were without two of their top three scorers as Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest sat out with injuries.

"We felt like we had to take care of this since they had two terrific players out," Mayo said.

Memphis started fast then held off a second-half rally that almost erased a 22-point advantage for its second straight home victory.

"We knew coming in this was a danger game," Rockets forward Shane Battier said. "They were desperate for a win. Young teams play better at home. We had such a horrible first quarter, that it was too much to overcome."

Memphis made its first six 3-pointers to build an early lead and shot 51 percent overall. Gay, who did not start after arriving late for the shootaround, made eight of 14 shots and Mayo was 7-of-13.

"I was just five minutes late," Gay said. "I was in there for most of the tapes. It was just one of those days."

Kyle Lowry had 11 points and five assists, while Mike Conley and Marc Gasol each had 10 points. Gasol and Warrick had eight rebounds apiece for Memphis.

Luis Scola had 16 points and 15 rebounds, and Rafer Alston had 16 points and eight assists for the Rockets. Von Wafer added 15 points, and Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks finished with 14 apiece. Carl Landry had 12 points.

Memphis lost most of its 22-point lead in the third quarter but rebuilt the advantage to 15 in the early minutes of the fourth period as Greg Buckner scored eight points.

"They were the aggressors all the way," Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. "They got the rebounds and got to the basket. They just outworked us. They came out much more aggressive to start the game."

Artest sat out the game with a sore right foot after starting the Rockets' first 20 games. McGrady was not dressed because of lingering problems with a sore left knee, and Brent Barry was sidelined with a right leg injury. The Rockets had only 10 players in uniform, including Steve Francis, who hasn't played all year.

That contributed to Memphis' reserves outscoring the Rockets' bench 58-28, partially because of Gay's tardiness.

"[That] was a little deceiving. Rudy came off the bench and gave us 20 points," Buckner said. "If he had not come off the bench, we probably wouldn't have outscored them. [The Rockets] were down a little bit. They were missing two of their best players. We came out and took advantage of it."

The Grizzlies again tweaked their starting lineup, reinserting Gasol with Darko Milicic on the front line in hopes of containing the Rockets Scola and Yao. It didn't last long as Milicic picked up two fouls before two minutes were gone in the game.

But Memphis was able to limit Yao to eight shots from the field as the Grizzlies big men pushed on the Rockets leading scorer for position in physical post play. Gasol was among the defenders and got three blocks and three steals on the night. Memphis forced 17 turnovers, leading to 23 points.

"When they take Yao away, we have to be ready for that," Alston said. "We have practiced that, but when we get out there we seem to get brain-locked. We need to be in attack mode."

Quinton Ross started in Gay's spot and made the first basket of the game, a 3-pointer.

Memphis built the 10-0 lead as the Rockets missed their first six shots. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies shot 61 percent in the period, including all five 3-pointers. The Grizzlies led by as many as 15 points in the first.

Memphis led by as many as 22, one short of its largest lead of the season. The Rockets, however, would close the half with a 21-8 rally to trail 56-47.

Houston shot 8-for-10 to open the second half and pulled within a basket midway through the third.

But Memphis was able to create a bit of room and carried an 83-75 lead into the final period, then extended it to double-digits early in the fourth.

"I don't think we shared the ball very well," Adelman said. "Guys were trying to do too much on their own and weren't moving the ball around. I think it was the whole team. We just seemed to be out of sync."

Game notes
The firing of Minnesota Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman raised questions about Memphis coach Marc Iavaroni's future. Iavaroni said before Monday night's game that he was only focusing on the game against the Rockets and not concerned about his job security. ... Wafer, the fourth-year guard from Florida State, started in place of Artest, his first start of the season. ... The Grizzlies largest lead of the season was 23 on Nov. 18 vs. Sacramento. ... Scola recorded his fifth double-double of the season. ... Yao was 6-of-8 from the free throw line, and is 35-of-40 in the last three games.