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The Grizzlies’ season of never-ending injuries finally came to its merciful conclusion, prompting tears of pride from coach Dave Joerger.
San Antonio defeated Memphis 116–95 at the FedEx Forum on Sunday, completing a four-game sweep in which the Spurs won by an average of 22 points. Of course, a short-handed, patched-together Memphis squad entered the series without its two best players, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, and two other starters, Jeff Green and Courtney Lee, who had been traded away in midseason deals aimed at improving its long-term flexibility.
Joerger did his best to make due in the series with Grit-and-Grind mainstays like Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, while also plugging in newcomers like Matt Barnes, Jordan Farmar and Lance Stephenson. Against a San Antonio team loaded with Hall of Famers and All-Stars, however, the underdogs never stood much of a chance.
“I can’t tell you enough how proud I am of every guy that’s in that locker room and has come through that locker room,” Joerger told reporters after Game 4, while wiping away tears. “This season has been hard. It’s been really hard. They could have quit. They could have quit, could have not made the playoffs. And every day they came out and fought like crazy.”
As his voice cracked and his face turned red, Joerger added with a laugh: “This was not planned.”
Joerger is choking up with tears in eyes talkin about the team this year and how hard the fought, all the way to end.— Chris Vernon (@ChrisVernonShow) April 24, 2016
Joerger then really started crying and said "I am so proud of them, that is all I have to say". walked away. Wow. Will never forget that— Chris Vernon (@ChrisVernonShow) April 24, 2016
Memphis finished 42–40 to claim the West’s No. 7 seed, barely holding off No. 8 Houston (41-41) and No. 9 Utah (40-42) down the stretch. All told, a whopping 28 different players logged minutes for Joerger this season.
The Grizzlies now enter the off-season needing to re-sign Conley, who will be one of the top unrestricted free agents on the market come July 1.