Western Conference Finals, Game 4 Recap: The Long Goodbye

Kevin C. Cox

The Grizzlies' season ended Monday night has they went down swinging at home against the San Antonio Spurs, who beat them in almost every category for four straight games.

I don't really feel like recapping this. From the start, it felt like the Grizzlies were trying as hard as they could to run back up a Slip 'n Slide. It just wasn't happening, no matter how hard they fought. That's what it felt like.

In the first quarter, the Grizzlies came out strong and grabbed an early lead, but it didn't last long, and the Spurs immediately started to run away with the game. Tayshaun Prince shot 3-7 in the first quarter, front-rimming a bunch of stuff. It seemed like no matter what the Grizzlies did, nothing worked, and the Spurs kept running away with it. Quincy Pondexter, who clearly plays great against the Spurs, didn't get much run in the first. Keyon Dooling played a bunch. At the end of the first quarter, the Grizzlies trailed 24-14.

In the second, the Grizzlies came out swinging again, but they were missing all of the wide-open looks they were able to create, including a couple of especially bad ones from Zach Randolph, who the Spurs were able to turn into a complete disaster in this series from start to finish. It started to feel like no matter what the Grizzlies tried to do, the Spurs had an answer for it. The Griz pulled within single digits at 28-20, but it felt like every time the Grizzlies started to get a little run together, Popovich called a timeout. He certainly wanted the Grizzlies to stay out of it, and didn't want them to get any momentum—any momentum.

Through the middle of the second, the Griz stayed right with the Spurs, never going down more than 10 but never pulling closer than 8. It was at this point that I started feeling like even if the momentum of the game changed, and the Griz were able to pull close, the Spurs would still win. At the 5:52 mark, though, the Spurs went into the penalty, and I started to feel a little less depressed. Maybe there was a chance. The gap hovered around 9 for a while. The Grizzlies were shooting 28%, and hadn't made a three pointer yet.

That changed with a Bayless three towards the end of the quarter, and another one after a rare 5-second violation by the Spurs closed the Spurs lead to 6 at the halftime break.

The third quarter started sluggish. Zach Randolph finally made a bucket, but then he picked up his third foul on an iffy call. The Griz found themselves falling behind again, and then Lionel Hollins went with a lineup that many writers—most notably the Memphis Flyer's Chris Herrington—touted as the best one the Grizzlies had: playing Mike Conley, Quincy Pondexter, and Marc Gasol together. The Griz immediately closed the Spurs' lead back to 6.

Tony Parker seems to be on a personal mission to get Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili back to the NBA Finals. He was ridiculous all night, but he asserted his will particularly strongly in the third, making plays that kept the Grizzlies from being able to close the gap on possession after possession after possession.

After possession.

After possession.

It was at this point that I told my wife I felt the season slipping away. It felt like it just wasn't happening. Felt like there was nothing the Grizzlies could do about it. Like everything was winding down, and every player on the court knew it.

This series has felt like four straight games of getting my head slammed in the door of an Oldsmobile Cutlass.

I hate that feeling. It's different than the way last year ended in the first round; that was a game seven, where anything could happen. This series has felt like four straight games of getting my head slammed in the door of an Oldsmobile Cutlass. Nothing makes it stop. Nothing makes it any better. There is no "we're still in this thing!" except for trying to put on a good face. It sucks.

The Grizzlies—especially Quincy Pondexter—were playing hard, playing out of their minds, like they had nothing to lose. They really didn't have anything to lose.

Z-Bo got going a little bit to end the quarter, with a furious rally bringing the Grizzlies... right back to where they started the third quarter: down six. That's been the problem this whole series. The Grizzlies have gotten down and then had to fight just not to go down any farther. They've never once done a good job of playing from ahead.

The Griz cut the San Antonio lead to 3 a minute and a half into the fourth on Z-Bo's third made basket of the game. Tony Allen missed a point-blank layup and then ripped the rebound right out of the hands of Manu Ginobili to keep it there. The Grindhouse was alive. It felt like the Grizzlies just might have enough in the tank to slay the Spurs for one more game. It certainly wasn't going to come on the back of Zach Randolph, who was shooting everything short, missing everything he put up. At the 9:30 mark, he had 10 points and 5 rebounds on 3-11 shooting. Which is, I figure, exactly where the Spurs wanted him.

Tony Parker got poked in the eye and Marc Gasol helped him up. At some point, the Grizzlies stopped running back on defense, and the Spurs started to punish them for it, running the lead back up to ten with 4:45 left to play.

The Spurs just kept hanging on. At one point, Bayless blew a screen, went over the bench and mouthed off to Lionel Hollins, and Hollins shoved him as he was sitting down. The frustration was clearly mounting. (For what it's worth, Bayless was back in the game after the next timeout.)

Free throws kept getting missed. With a minute left, and the Grizzlies down five, I was starting to feel that drained feeling again, everything fading.

Marc Gasol made it a three point game with 42 seconds left. 89-86, for the season. Tony Parker got fouled on a layup attempt. Splitter blocked a Bayless layup and Parker went to the line again. It was 93-86 after that with 21 seconds left.

And that was it. The best season in the history of the Grizzlies franchise finally ran into its end.

Obviously we'll have a lot more to say about the season, the playoffs, the series, and the game. But for tonight, folks, I'm going to bed, and I'm going to be sad tomorrow. Stick around this summer, because this offseason promises to be one of the craziest in the Grizzlies' history.

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