And Dante Cunningham, who filled Gasol's spot, took advantage of the opportunity with his best performance of the season.
Cunningham, who played only one minute in the Grizzlies' 102-96 victory at the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, played 40-plus and was 6 of 9 from the field as all five Memphis starters finished in double figures.
"Dante didn't play much in the [Lakers] game and didn't know if Marc was going to play [against the Timberwolves] or not, but came prepared," said guard Mike Conley, who had 12 points and eight assists. "That's the kind of focus we need from everybody, and I think we fed off that."
Both teams were dealing with injuries. The Timberwolves were without guard J.J. Barea and center Nikola Pekovic, while guard Ricky Rubio is out for the season after knee surgery. Michael Beasley is dealing with a sprained toe on his left foot that limited him to 11 minutes and 3 points against the Grizzlies.
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"We're all we've got right now," Love said of the teammates who are still in uniform. "I know other guys need to step up and play as hard as they can. We're definitely finding out about ourselves."
Meanwhile, Memphis played without Gasol and is still waiting for forward Zach Randolph to get back in game shape after missing 2 1/2 months with a right knee injury. Then Conley went down with a twisted ankle late in the first half, but finished the game.
"Somebody's out; somebody has to step up," Gay said. "Dante did it. Mo [Speights] did it also."
The Grizzlies pulled away in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Timberwolves 25-19 and missing only one of six free throws in the final minute.
"Fourth quarter, we're right there, and then they make plays down the stretch to get the stops they need," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said.
Memphis shot 43 percent from the floor and missed all 11 3-point attempts, but overcame that by holding Minnesota to 39 percent overall and 31 percent from 3-point range.
Memphis led 44-41 at the break behind 12 points from Gay. Love had 11 for Minnesota in a half where both teams committed nine turnovers.
The Grizzlies opened a 44-36 lead on a short jumper by Conley, but the Timberwolves scored the last five points of the first half. Conley had headed to the locker room before those final Wolves points, injuring his ankle after hitting the jumper with 1:35 left in the half.
"It could have easily gone south for us with me going down and Marc out, guys being in a different roles, different settings," Conley said, when asked about the reserves stepping in.
Conley returned to start the second half, but Minnesota came out firing. The Timberwolves used a 20-6 rally to erase the Memphis advantage and take their biggest lead of the night at 63-55.
Memphis answered by closing the third quarter with a 13-4 run to retake the lead at 68-67.
"I decided to give [Love] about three minutes rest there, and they closed the gap and took the lead," Adelman said. "That's when we need to have other people step up, when he's not in the game. We have to find a way to make sure we maintain during that time frame."
The Grizzlies extended the lead to as many as 11 in the final period before the Wolves rallied again. Three-pointers by Love and Ellington pulled them within 88-83 with 1:34 left, but they couldn't get any closer.
It was the latest example of reserves stepping up and filling a role as Memphis was able to cobble together enough of a lineup to make it past the Timberwolves despite the injuries.
"That's why they have 12 players on the roster," Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said. "I just told our guys you can't think you are not going to play. Everybody is important for the team. Everyone has a role, and there is a time that you have to step up."
- The Grizzlies were playing their only home game out of a two-week, eight-game stretch.
- Barea was missed his second straight game with a bruised right quadriceps.
- Memphis has won seven straight over Minnesota. The Wolves' last win in the series was Feb. 6, 2010.
- Gasol missed his first game of this season. He only missed one game last season.
- Love recorded his 65th double-double of the season.
- The Grizzlies had 14 offensive rebounds, leading to a season-high 25 second-chance points.