MEMPHIS -- If a team wants to go deep in the NBA playoffs, it's got to win games even when it appears totally uninspired, at least early in a contest.
That's exactly what the Memphis Grizzles did Monday night at FedExForum, recording an 84-78 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers after Memphis trailed for the first time this season entering the fourth quarter.
The Grizzlies, with an NBA-best 10-2 record, were outhustled the first three quarters, and they faced a seven-point deficit. However, they opened the final period with six consecutive points, and they made just about every play in the stretch.
Memphis closed the game on a 10-2 run in the final 5 1/2 minutes. The Cavs made just one of 10 shots, the lone basket coming on an Alonzo Gee follow dunk with 44.5 seconds left to cut the Memphis lead to 80-78.
After a timeout, Grizzlies backup point guard Jerryd Bayless, playing for starter Mike Conley, who sat out with the flu, drilled an 11-foot jumper off a screen with 23.8 seconds left. The Grizzlies were home free eight seconds later when guard Tony Allen swiped the ball from Cavs' center Anderson Varejao as he made a spin move to the hoop.
"That's the grit in The Grindhouse," Allen said of the seemingly uninspired Grizzlies finally getting their act together in the final quarter. "With Mike Conley being down, that's the true definition of 'grit and grind.' We never gave up. We didn't want to let this one slip away."
For three quarters, the Cavs did everything the Grizzlies usually do. They got almost every loose ball, they pounded the offensive glass and they got a spark from two bench players.
And then there was Varejao, who had 15 points and 22 rebounds, including eight on the offensive end. Neither of the Grizzlies' primary big men -- Zach Randolph, who had 19 points and 8 rebounds, and Marc Gasol, who had 19 points and 6 rebounds -- could keep Varejao off the boards.
"We had a chance," Varejao said, "but we've got to play smarter in the fourth quarter. We are playing as good as them for three quarters, and we lose in the last two or three minutes."
The Cavaliers led 47-42 at halftime, and a lot of it had to do with effort. Cleveland played like a team starving for a win, having already lost four games by four points or fewer, including a 110-108 defeat to defending the NBA champ Miami Heat on Saturday.
Memphis led by as many as eight points halfway through the first quarter, but the Grizzlies became rather casual in their efforts on both ends of the floor.
The Grizzlies definitely missed Conley, whose explosive first-step breaks down defenses and often jumpstarts his team when they are lethargic.
"Jerryd did an admirable job, and hit some big shots late," Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said, "but we missed Mike big time. When you play these teams that are up and coming, you remember what we were as a team trying to get to this point. When you play somebody good, you want to show you belong."
The Cavs (3-11) pushed the Grizzlies to the limit until Memphis' smothering fourth-quarter defense limited Cleveland to 20 percent field goal accuracy (4-for-20).
Allen's defense in the final quarter inspired his Grizzlies' teammates. Seven times in the final 12 minutes, Memphis had three consecutive defensive stops.
"Tony Allen is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, and he made it very tough on us in the last quarter," Cavs coach Byron Scott said. "We got stagnant."
Notes: Conley missed Monday's game with flu-symptoms, and he was replaced by Bayless, a five-year veteran who signed as a free agent in July. Bayless entered Monday's game averaging 7.3 points and 2.7 assists, shooting a career-high 44 percent from three-point range. Bayless scored 6 of his 9 points vs. the Cavs in final quarter, and he also had 6 assists, 3 turnovers and 2 blocked shots. On his 11-foot jumper that sealed the Grizzlies' win with 23.8 seconds left, he said, "I got a good look and I let it fly. But I shot terrible and I didn't play well. It was my fault we were in the hole." ... Randolph had his double-double streak stopped at 11 games. ... Former Grizzlies guard Jeremy Pargo started for the Cavs and finished with 9 points and 3 assists. ... Memphis' 33 rebounds tied the season low it had in a loss to Denver on Nov. 19. ... Varejao's 22 rebounds were one shy of his career-high set against Washington on Oct. 30.