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VOL. 131 | NO. 76 | Friday, April 15, 2016

Warriors Beat Grizzlies for Record 73rd Win; Now It's the Alamo

By Don Wade

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When the Grizzlies nearly beat the Golden State Warriors at FedExForum a few nights ago, falling 100-99, there was that feeling of letting one slip away (and yes, some people believe the officials took it away).

Memphis Grizzlies’ Jarell Martin (10) dunks against the Golden State Warriors during a game Wednesday, April 13, in Oakland, Calif. The wounded Grizzlies face San Antonio in the first round of the playoffs. 

(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

“A one-point game is always tough,” the Grizzlies’ Vince Carter said. “You just sit back and say, `Man, if we just could have done this.’ It’s the nature of the beast.”

There was none of that, of course, after the Warriors won their record-setting 73rd game with a 125-104 victory over the Grizzlies on Wednesday, April 13, at Oracle Arena on the last day of the NBA season. Stephen Curry knocked down 10 triples, scored 46 points like he was sipping a tall, cool drink poolside, and finished the season with – yes, an NBA record – 402 made 3-pointers.

So no, you don’t sit back and wonder what little thing might have made a difference. Only Michael Jordan emerging from a time machine to protect his record might have made a difference.

The Warriors appear to be running alongside destiny in pursuit of a second straight world championship. Golden State coach Steve Kerr was a member of the 72-win Chicago Bulls from the 1995-96 season. He didn’t think 72-10 would be beaten then, and now he can’t fathom 73-9 being eclipsed.

Which, if he’s right, keeps the Grizzlies in the role of the vanquished in the record book.

“Somebody’s got to go 74-8,” Kerr said. “I don’t see it, and I hope our fans aren’t expecting it next year.”

Excuse us in Memphis if we don’t shed a tear for the future crosses the Warriors have to bear.

For the Grizzlies, the most noteworthy number from this season is not their 42 wins, which is amazingly high given the circumstances. It is 28 – as in the NBA-record number of players used this season.

The Grizzlies can take pride in making the playoffs for a franchise-best sixth straight year. But it brings no reward, only a trip to The Alamo where the No. 7 seed Grizzlies face the No. 2 seed San Antonio Spurs. They were a mere 67-15, 40-1 at home, this season. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich may even continue his regular season routine of resting players during the series – insult added to the Grizzlies’ constant state of injury.

Meanwhile, Memphis ends the season on a four-game losing streak and having lost 10 of its last 11 games. The Grizzlies are riding a wave of anti-momentum.

Tony Allen didn’t play on the season-ending road trip because of a sore hamstring and you already know that Marc Gasol and Mike Conley were lost to injuries long ago. There have been many others hurt, of course, but space and sanity prevent listing all of them here.

In the season’s last game, Dave Joerger trotted out a starting lineup of Matt Barnes and Zach Randolph at forward, Chris Andersen at center, and Vince Carter and Jordan Farmar in the backcourt. The Warriors countered with Curry and Klay Thompson in the backcourt, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green at forward and Andrew Bogut at center.

It’s a miracle the Grizzlies kept the score as close as they did, especially given the 50-point defeat to the Warriors at the season’s start when they were actually healthy.

So what will be an inevitable first-round playoff loss to the Spurs and likely a sweep, starts on Sunday, April 17, on TNT. If you can bring yourself to watch. Game 2 is on Tuesday, April 19, at San Antonio and the series shifts to FedExForum for Game 3 at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, April 22, and Game 4 at noon on Sunday, April 24.

And that Sunday game, barring one last heroic stand in the name of Grit and Grit, should put an end to the season’s misery.

Full focus then can fall on Gasol’s rehab from his foot injury, Conley’s rehab from Achilles tendinitis, and the Grizzlies’ effort to sign Conley to a new deal.

Conley was traveling with the team this week, which seems a pretty good sign that he remains invested in the Grizzlies going forward. Despite the pain of this season – physical, mental and emotional – the odds remain strong that Conley and Gasol will form a cornerstone in the years ahead.

Randolph and Allen might well be back next season, each with a year left on their contracts, and perhaps the Core Four can take one more shot at finishing this era out together on their own terms.

Or at least all in uniform and on the court and not being made to watch as somebody else steps over them to make NBA history.

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