The San Antonio Spurs successfully swept the undermanned Memphis Grizzlies on Sunday, fighting off a commendable opening half from the hosts before pulling away for a 116-95 victory at FedExForum.
Lance Stephenson poured in 14 early points on 7-of-11 shooting to give Memphis a shot of momentum and left the Grizzlies trailing only 47-45 at the half.
A power outage toward the start of the second quarter also took the Spurs out of rhythm after they had ended the first quarter on a 10-2 run.
Grizzly Bear Blues summarized the sentiment Memphis fans likely felt throughout a short-lived playoff outing and after the first 12 minutes of Sunday's Game 4:
NBA.com's John Schuhmann noted how dominant the favorites had been in that pivotal stretch of the series:
Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News captured an image of the brownout scene from Memphis:
The electricity mishap at FedExForum was little more than a brief distraction delaying the inevitable.
San Antonio made sure to take care of business after letting the Grizzlies hang around for a half, promptly building a big lead in the third quarter thanks to a collective heightened sense of urgency. The victors outscored Memphis 37-21 in that decisive 12-minute stretch.
Spurs point guard Tony Parker exploded to the basket like he often did in his prime en route to a series-high 16 points in only 21 minutes, while Kawhi Leonard played like a superstar on both ends of the court.
After a LaMarcus Aldridge three-point play and a Parker layup, Memphis called timeout at the 6:54 mark while trailing 62-53.
MySanAntonio.com reacted to how Parker was dicing the Grizzlies defense:
The visitors continued to build their lead out of the timeout and stretched it to 18 by the end of the third. Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News reacted to the lopsided contest at that juncture:
With 12 minutes remaining, the Spurs had effectively done their damage and all but dashed Memphis' hopes of staving off elimination.
Geoff Calkins of the Commercial Appeal tied the Grizzlies' decline down the stretch to the aforementioned power outage:
Sunday's outcome was quite a contrast to the surprising circumstances that beset the Spurs last year, when the Los Angeles Clippers knocked them out in the first round after a hard-fought seven-game series. Now they get to rest Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan for the maximum amount of time before the conference semifinals.
Anthony Slater of the Oklahoman looked ahead to what's likely on deck for the Spurs:
If San Antonio does indeed face the Oklahoma City Thunder, Leonard will be both a top scoring option and a rare defender who can make life difficult for OKC star Kevin Durant.
Leonard, whose 14 first-half points offset Stephenson's hot start, continues to prove himself as the future cornerstone of the Spurs franchise. He had a team-high 21 points in Game 4 and seems to ensure San Antonio will maintain its standard of excellence when its veteran trio is gone.
The NBA on TNT had an appropriate reaction to Leonard leading his side to a sweep:
Pounding the Rock expressed the likely consensus feeling about how the Grizzlies fought:
Hanging on to make the playoffs in the West with stars such as center Marc Gasol and point guard Mike Conley sidelined by season-ending injuries was commendable in and of itself for Memphis.
Although the Grizzlies were likely one player away from being a true contender this year anyway, they should be able to draw some inspiration next season from how they fought under adverse, injury-riddled circumstances. However, Conley is due to hit free agency this summer, so Memphis must retain him and add at least one other marquee player if it wants to move up in the deep Western Conference hierarchy.
Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger got extremely emotional when discussing how his team hung tough at the end of the season and in the playoffs.
"We could've quit. But every day, they fought like crazy. I'd do anything for them," said Joerger, per Fox Sports Southeast's Rob Fischer.
Matt Barnes, who had 15 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the defeat, expressed pride in how hard Memphis battled as well.
"Guys were asked to do more than normal. But our heart and effort never wavered. I'm just proud of the heart we showed," Barnes said, per Fischer.
Joerger applauded Barnes and Vince Carter in particular for their veteran leadership, via NBA TV:
Asked whether he would retire, Carter said, per the Commercial Appeal's Ronald Tillery, "I plan on coming back. I feel good. My body feels good."
Even Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich couldn't help but commend the Grizzlies for their collective resolve.
"It wasn't a fair fight and they didn't care. They played with a lot of heart and fortitude," Popovich said, per Tillery.
Parker also weighed in on the mismatch of a series, saying, per Tillery, "It wasn't the same as all the great battles we've had with the Grizzlies in the past. They tried. It's just too hard [with] injuries."