Gay scored a season-high 26 points and the Memphis Grizzlies beat New York 94-83 to end the Knicks winning streak at four games.
"That's what we need out of him," Memphis guard Mike Conley said. "That's the guy we look to to make big plays down the stretch and to carry the load of the scoring. We're a very good team when he's scoring and being that kind of a threat."
Gay made 11 of 16 shots to help the Grizzlies snap a three-game losing streak and improve to 4-6. The performance was a step forward in a season where Gay is still trying to find his way after missing the closing months of last season and the Grizzlies' playoff run because of a shoulder injury. He also is dealing with a hip pointer.
"There are a lot of things people don't understand," Gay said about the criticism of his play. "A lot of people haven't been through surgery and been out 10 months and expected to play back-to-back-to-back. It's OK. It's going to click for me."
The Knicks dealt with their own injury problems in the game. New York played most of the second half without scoring leader Carmelo Anthony after he sprained his right ankle early in the third period. He didn't return, and X-rays were negative.
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Anthony said he will wait and see how he feels Friday, and didn't plan to force his return. If it wasn't feeling right by Saturday's game at Oklahoma City, he will see how it is Monday when the Knicks return home to face Orlando.
"I've been getting beat up for nine years, so, I'm not worried about getting beat up," said Anthony, who also was dealing with a wrist problem sustained in the first quarter. "I'm going to get through it. I'm living. I'm walking. I'm smiling. I'm hurt, but I'll be all right."
Anthony and Bill Walker each scored 14 points to lead the Knicks (6-5). Rookie guard Iman Shumpert had 12 points, but was 5 of 20 from the field. Amare Stoudemire, saddled with foul problems early, scored a season-low six points, converting only one of his seven shots. New York set a season low with its 83 points.
"It was definitely one of those nights where we couldn't get into a rhythm," Knicks center Tyson Chandler said, "but we have to do a better job of our starts and the way we come out."
Part of that came from a Memphis defense that had nine steals, half of the Knicks 18 turnovers, and left New York shooting 37 percent for the game.
"Our intensity, our focus, our discipline were really good on both ends of the court," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. "We just kept getting steals."
Memphis had a comfortable lead in the fourth period, but New York reserves went 6 of 9 from 3-point range late to make it closer at the end.
Memphis already had a double-digit lead in the first half, then outscored the Knicks 26-14 in the third quarter, at one point stretching the lead to 25 points.
The Knicks struggled from the field from the start, missing eight of their first nine shots. Stoudemire picked up a couple of early fouls, and Memphis took the lead getting out on the break.
"I just thought emotionally we didn't come out with the right mental energy, and they jumped on us," Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We went back on our heels and tried to resolve the problem one-on-one.
"It didn't work out, obviously."
Gay was 5 of 6 early, including a couple of dunks, for 12 first-quarter points.
"I just told Rudy Gay: `That's the best I've seen you play overall,"' Hollins said.
- Anthony went to the bench during a first-quarter timeout shaking his left wrist. He had additional tape wrapped on it and returned after the timeout.
- The broadcast by TNT meant the return of former Memphis Grizzlies coach Mike Fratello, an analyst for the network.
- Memphis' Marresse Speights got his second start at power forward in place of the injured Zach Randolph . Speights finished with two points, missing all six of his shots from the field. He grabbed nine rebounds.
- Several fans serenaded Memphis guard Tony Allen when he was at the foul line in the second quarter. Allen celebrated his 30th birthday on Wednesday. The singing brought a chuckle from Anthony.