MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Tony Allen’s defensive accomplishments now include the Grizzlies’ franchise record for steals in a game, a performance that helped Memphis get its fifth straight win.
Allen scored 13 points and snagged a franchise-best eight steals Monday night as the Grizzlies pulled away at the end for a 109-101 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“I was alert and felt good in the passing lanes,” Allen said.
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His final steal came with 37 seconds left and the Grizzlies holding a 104-99 lead. It helped the Grizzlies continue their march down the stretch with their 13th win in 16 games.
“That’s crazy,” Memphis forward Marreese Speights said of Allen’s accomplishment. “But that’s what he does. He plays defense. He’s probably one of the best defenders in the league.”
Speights had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Marc Gasol also scored 17 points to lead Memphis. Rudy Gay scored 15 points, O.J. Mayo had 14, and Mike Conley added 12 as the Grizzlies won their 10th straight at home.
Gay and Mayo led a rally that allowed Memphis to finally put the game away in the closing minutes. The Grizzlies pulled one-half game behind the Los Angeles Clippers for fourth place in the Western Conference and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Clippers hold the tiebreaker between the two teams.
Rookie Kyrie Irving led the Cavaliers with 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting, Antawn Jamison scored 17 points and Tristan Thompson finished with 12. Manny Harris added 11 points, including nine in the fourth quarter as Cleveland lost its second straight and fifth in its last six.
“I think our guys are continuously competing at a very high level,” Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said. “I’m very satisfied with how hard we’re playing.”
The score was tied at 98 — the 12th tie of the game — when Thompson hit two free throws for the Cavaliers with 3:27 left. However, Cleveland struggled from the free throw line after that, Thompson and Irving hitting only one of their last six combined.
“We really competed for 48 minutes, and it’s just that type of game where the two rookies go 1 of 6 from the free throw line,” Irving said. “It just happens.”
The Cavaliers used 3-point shooting to build a 10-point lead early in the second quarter before the Grizzlies, who appeared lethargic in the early going, put together a 14-0 run behind the reserves.
That helped Memphis take a 55-52 lead into halftime as Speights had 15 points and Allen 10 — with at least three of Allen’s field goals coming on dunks when Memphis turned up the defensive intensity.
“I believe that defense came from Tony,” Conley said. “We had a good group of guys going there, and they played with a sense of urgency, especially defensively. We got in transition and made some easy buckets and kind go jump-started us in spurts when we weren’t playing well.”
Irving started off strong, scoring 13 of his 19 first-half points in the opening quarter. He was 7 for 10 from the field, including 2 for 4 on 3-pointers in the first two periods. Jamison added 12 for the Cavaliers, who settled into 45-percent shooting in the half.
“I was just taking what the defense gave me,” Irving said. “Making simple basketball plays and feeding off my teammates. It’s kind of what I do every single games. (The first) was one of the best quarters we’ve had throughout the season.”
Irving continued to score in the third with help from Jamison. Despite Allen having three steals in the period, the Cavaliers led 78-77 heading to the fourth quarter.
The final period started with a handful of lead changes before Memphis created some space behind Mayo and Gay. Harris was able to pull Cleveland back into the game with all nine of his points in the period during the first eight minutes.
NOTES: Grizzlies G Lester Hudson played 13 games for Cleveland on two 10-day contracts, averaging 12.7 points. … Cavs F Luke Walton coached at the University of Memphis during the lockout. … Memphis reserve F Quincy Pondexter left the game in the second quarter with a left knee injury. Team said an MRI is scheduled for Tuesday. … The Cavaliers topped 100 points in Memphis for the seventh straight time.