MINNEAPOLIS (AP)- The Memphis Grizzlies saw that Zach Randolph wasn’t there to help them on Wednesday night, so they played harder.
The Minnesota Timberwolves saw that Zach Randolph wasn’t there to beat up on them again, so they took it easy.
Rudy Gay had 19 points and eight rebounds, lifting the Grizzlies to a 90-86 victory over the Timberwolves in their first game since learning Randolph would be out for six to eight weeks.
O.J. Mayo scored 11 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter and Mike Conley had 12 points and eight assists for Memphis, which is 2-1 since their burly leader injured his right knee.
“It’s a great sign,” Conley said. “It’s very promising when you lose a guy like Zach and have guys step up.”
Kevin Love had 27 points and 14 rebounds and Ricky Rubio added 12 points, 10 assists and four rebounds for the Timberwolves, who missed a chance for their first three-game winning streak since February 2010.
Love became the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975 to record 20 points and 12 rebounds in his team’s first six games.
But it wasn’t enough against the hard-nosed Grizzlies, who scored 23 points off 17 turnovers and held the Wolves to 40 percent shooting to grind out the kind of victory that would make Randolph proud.
“Having the big fella out we definitely have to raise our focus level up a little bit more and execute better offensively,” Mayo said. “Execute better defensively and try to give ourselves a chance to win every night.”
Memphis used a 13-0 run to take a 76-68 lead with 3:37 to go, then held on as the Wolves tried to rally.
Love, Luke Ridnour and Rubio hit 3s, the last from the Spaniard with 16.5 seconds to play to make it 84-83. But Conley and Mayo knocked down free throws to hold them off.
The Timberwolves, who were feeling pretty good about themselves coming off of wins over Dallas and San Antonio, missed 11 free throws and trailed 18-3 before the game was eight minutes old.
“They were way too lax in their approach,” coach Rick Adelman said. “I told them, ‘You haven’t won anything. Don’t come out there thinking you just won the championship.’ “
Tony Allen added 20 points for Memphis.
The Grizzlies found out earlier Wednesday that they will be missing Randolph, their emotional leader and best player, because of a torn MCL in his right knee. It was Randolph who instilled the swagger and toughness in this young team last year, carrying them to within one win of the Western Conference finals.
Memphis traded a second-round pick to Philadelphia and sent guard Xavier Henry to New Orleans as part of a three-team trade that landed them Philly big man Marreese Speights, but most of the onus will be put on Gay and Marc Gasol to fill the void.
Memphis trailed 68-63 with 7:45 to play, but ripped off a 13-0 run to take control. Mayo, who was a Timberwolf for about an hour on draft night in 2008 before being traded for Love, hit a 3-pointer, a three-point play and a free throw in the spurt for a 76-68 lead.
“I think our mindset has been family,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “When we go out there, one for all, all for one, playing together, playing for each other. We’re starting to grow in that area already. We were starting to grow before Zach got hurt and we’re starting to get that chemistry back that we had last year.”
The Timberwolves were sluggish for most of the night, but Rubio energized them at the start of the fourth quarter with a nice flurry. He ended the third with a stutter-step score on a drive, then opened the fourth with a 28-foot lob pass to Derrick Williams.
Rubio added a jumper from just inside the 3-point line and drew a charge on the other end as the Wolves took a 64-61 lead.
“We had the victory,” Rubio said, “and we let it go.”
The Timberwolves played without J.J. Barea (strained right hamstring) for the third time in four games. Adelman said they wanted to play it cautious and make sure he was full healthy before they brought him back. … Conley made his first start since spraining his ankle three games ago. … Wolves F Anthony Tolliver took a nasty fall under the basket in the fourth but was able to finish it out. … The Grizzlies outscored Minnesota 48-36 in the paint.