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Memphis' injury-filled season comes to merciful end

Spurs sweep undermanned Grizzlies to move to second round

POSTED: Apr 24, 2016 7:13 PM ET

By Lang Whitaker

BY Lang Whitaker

NBA.com

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Grizzlies on Series Loss

An emotional Coach David Joerger, Matt Barnes and Vince Carter talk with the media following the series loss to the Spurs.

— Winter has finally come to Memphis.

After suffering through a ruthless last few weeks of the season, losing enough healthy bodies to create an entirely new team, the Grizzlies had to square off against the NBA's second-best regular season team in the postseason. And today, four games after they started, the San Antonio Spurs finally stopped the Memphis Grizzlies, beating them in Game 4, 116-95, to sweep their first round series.

For the Spurs, it wasn't easy. After outlasting the Grizzlies in Game 3 to win 96-87, Game 4 started with things mostly even, with the Spurs pulling out to a 25-21 lead early. Then, with 10:05 remaining in the second quarter, the lights went out in the FedEx Forum as a result of a county-wide drop in voltage, causing an 18-minute delay.

"It kind of reminded me of the Super Bowl, where it was the 49ers and the Ravens," said Grizzlies forward Matt Barnes. "I was hoping we would do what they did and come back and win, but unfortunately it didn't work out like that."

While the Spurs had a 47-45 lead at halftime, during the third quarter the Spurs broke out into a rendition of their greatest hits. Tony Parker spun through the lane and got to the rim for two of his eight points in the quarter. Tim Duncan blocked a shot in the paint from Zach Randolph without his feet leaving the court. Manu Ginobili made a diagonal dash through the lane and squeezed through two defenders for a lay-in. Kawhi Leonard knocked down a three off a kick-out from Parker, on his way to a team-high 21 points. By the end of the third quarter, the Spurs had opened up an 18-point lead, putting the game, and ultimately the series, out of reach.

With the Spurs, it usually isn't a matter of if but when, something they proved over and over in this series. Memphis would keep it close until the Spurs found a spell where everything clicked, generating a quarter that would essentially put the game away. In Game 1, it was a 33-14 third quarter. In Game 2, it was a 22-11 first quarter. In Game 3, it was a 26-16 fourth quarter. And today in game 4, it was the 37-21 third quarter that finally busted it open for the Spurs.

"We found a quarter here or there in each game where we spread ourselves," said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "But other than that, they played us even. Dave [Joerger] and his staff and those players deserve a lot of credit. It's not just false praise. They really do because it wasn't a fair fight and they didn't care."

Pop was of course referring to a Grizzlies roster tenuously held together largely by athletic tape and band-aids. The Grizzlies used 28 different players during the season, but they never betrayed the grit and grind mentality this team was built upon.

While it may have seemed like a foregone conclusion that the Spurs would win the series, it didn't soften the blow for the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies lost four straight but battled throughout, making sure the Spurs put some respect on their name. And once the series finally was decided, some perhaps pent-up emotion seemed to finally shake loose.

"Those guys fought and I can't tell you how proud I am," said Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger through tears, "of every guy that is in that locker room and has come through that locker room this season. This season has been hard, it's been really hard. They could have quit, could've not made the playoffs, and every day they came out and fought like crazy."

"They play very physical," added Parker, "so it's a good test of the next round."

Beating the San Antonio Spurs requires playing with a razor-thin margin of error. The Grizzlies had heart and guile for days, but the Spurs just kept running their offense, making perfect rotations on defense, continued pounding that rock. And four games after they started, the Spurs are through to the Western Conference semifinals. Now they wait to see who wins the Thunder/Mavericks match-up to discover their opponent, and as a reward for sweeping the Grizzlies, they'll likely get at least six days off to recuperate and rest.

"Rest is always good," said Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with 15 points and 10 boards. "We'll work on some things and get some things fixed up for sure."

As the Grizzlies walked off the court, the fans remaining in the Grind House stood and held gold towels reading "ALL HEART." Vince Carter took his time leaving the court, surveying the scene and waving to the crowd.

"It's just like, when you get older, you savor the moments, regardless," the 39-year-old Carter said when asked to recall his thoughts. "At that point it's like, what else could I have done to help the team? What else could we have done collectively? But, it's a proud moment because everyone laid it on the line and did what they're supposed to do."

Lang Whitaker has covered the NBA since 1998. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

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