There will be no miracle on Beale Street. At least not the one that Memphis Grizzlies faithful had hoped – even if ever so faintly – would begin Monday night with a Game 4 victory over the San Antonio Spurs at the FedExForum.
Teams that have led 3-0 in a seven-game series in the NBA Playoffs have never lost (107-0). Grit and grind loyalists believed. But it was just wishful thinking.
The Western Conference Finals victory – a well-earned one – went to the San Antonio Spurs 93-86, who now advance to the 2013 Finals against the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals between the defending champion Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers. The win secured San Antonio's fifth Western Conference title and their second sweep of the 2013 Playoffs.
Memphis finished with the most successful season in franchise history, with a 56-26 regular-season record and the team's most overall win.
While the Spurs were partying and celebrating their trophy presentation, the Grizzlies were slowly decompressing in their locker room.
"I'm proud of our team and the way we battled and fought every game, including tonight," said Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins. "We could have just given up when they got up on us, but we kept battling and gave ourselves a chance, which is what we've done all year."
Tied with over seven minutes left in the first quarter, San Antonio went on an 18-6 run to take a 12-point lead. The Grizz chipped away over the course of the remainder of the game but could get no closer than three points.
Grizzlies forward Quincy Pondexter led the team with a career-high 22 points off the bench. Center Marc Gasol finished with 14 points while Zach Randolph registered 13 points and eight rebounds from the power forward spot.
"Man, I've said this before, and I'm honest to God with this, I would give away all my points for a win," Pondexter said. "That's how I was raised. That's how I've been all my life. I don't care if I had a good game, I really don't. I'm just hurt that our team isn't advancing and I can't play any more games with these guys this year."
Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said the series wasn't an easy sweep for his team.
"I don't believe we won this thing 4-0," Popovich said. "We didn't kick anybody's butt. I'm not trying to be overly gracious or anything – it's true. A couple of plays here and there in just about every single game could have changed the whole darned thing. We're thrilled to be able to win the series, but Memphis was a hell of a competitor all year long."
Popovich said the Grizzlies organization did a great job putting things together.
"It was difficult at times, I know, and I thought Lionel and his staff were superior in keeping that ship upright and moving in the right direction," said Popovich. "One of the best, if not the best, defensive inside teams in the league, and they were super. It was a hell of an opponent."
Spurs point guard Tony Parker led all scorers with a game-high 37 points, with six assists. He averaged 24 points in the series. Tim Duncan finished with 15 points and eight rebounds.
Parker summed up what worked so well for him in Game 4.
"They didn't come as much, they were not committing as much on me when I was penetrating because they were scared that I would hit the shooters, so I think Game 1 and Game 2 definitely opened it for everything else," Parker said.
"After Game 2, I got a lot of assists so I knew they were not going to help as much. So I was just being aggressive and just trying to take what the defense gave me."
"I think this was a great year for us. We learned a lot. We fought hard. Nobody expected us to get to the Western Conference Finals. We set the bar high for next year. We want to come back and fight for it," said guard Tony Allen.
"The San Antonio Spurs showed they were a veteran ball club. They showed they were champions. They came into Memphis and beat us fair and square. It was a tough game. I bleed blue. This is where I want to be. It's all in God's hands. At this point I can't see myself in a different jersey."
Reserve guard Jerryd Bayless said this year's Grizzlies is "one of the most resilient group of guys that I have been around in the NBA. I gained a lot of relationships on this team. We are going to dwell on this for a couple of days. Then we will have to move on and prepare for the next season."
March Gasol acknowledged the pain of losing.
"We just wanted to win tonight and be able to play another game, and we were not able to pull it off," he said.
"We played, we hustled and we just didn't have enough. We just didn't have enough to go over the hump and win for ourselves and for our people. It was real hard