So halfway through, veteran forward Matt Barnes said that his undermanned Grizzlies were "bringing spoons to a gunfight."
The end of the fight came on Sunday at FedExForum as the Spurs took a two-point halftime and ran it out to a 116-95 victory and a 4-0 sweep.
"This is one of the best teams and one of the best coaches so they're like a machine," said Memphis forward Zach Randolph, who had 15 points and seven rebounds. "You really can't turn the ball over or make mistakes."
The Grizzlies did both as the Spurs scored 18 points off 17 turnovers. The Spurs led by as many as 25 points in the fourth quarter. But Spurs coach Gregg Popovich had nothing but praise for the Grizzlies.
"They played with a lot of heart and a lot of fortitude," he said. "That will serve them well as they move forward next season. For our part, that physicality will help us in the next round."
San Antonio went 8-0 against Memphis this season overall and Sunday's victory marked the Spurs' 10th sweep of a postseason series in franchise history.
Beset by injuries, including those to center Marc Gasol and point guard Mike Conley, the Grizzlies used an NBA-record 28 players. When including the end of the regular season, they lost 14 of their last 15 games. They finished the regular season with a 42-40 record and made the playoffs for a sixth straight time.
Barnes (15 points) and fellow vet Vince Carter (14 points) insisted on being on the court when the game ended as the fans that remained waved gold "growl towels" and gave the overwhelmed Grizzlies one last sendoff.
Memphis coach Dave Joerger choked up during his postgame press conference just talking about Carter and Barnes and the leadership they provided. Joerger apologized for not taking questions.
"The first thing Pop said to me when I congratulated him was that it wasn't a fair fight," Barnes said. "The thing I kept relaying to my team is we've got to go down swinging and I think we did that."
Grizzlies guard Lance Stephenson led all scorers with his playoff career-best 26 points.
Blown out by the Spurs in the first two games in San Antonio, the Grizzlies carried a one-point lead into the fourth quarter of Game 3 and lost by nine points. On Sunday in Game 4, the Spurs dominated the third quarter 37-21 and were up 84-66 going into the fourth. Parker, Leonard and Aldridge all scored seven points in that third quarter and Parker and Leonard combined for five assists.
"I was just trying to push the ball, get the pace up a little bit," Parker said.
San Antonio shot 50 percent from the floor and made 10 of 22 from 3-point range for 45.5 percent. Memphis shot 44.9 percent from the field and hit 5 of 13 from distance for 38.5 percent. The Spurs won points in the paint 50-38 and rebounds 41-36.
With 10:02 left in the second quarter, FedExForum experienced a power surge and lights over the court went out. The game was delayed for 19 minutes.
The Grizzlies, however, needed a delay during the second half when they were outscored 69-50.
"We understood coming in it was going to be tough," said Memphis swingman Tony Allen (six points, two steals). "Take your hat off to the (Spurs). They were who we thought they were.
"They came in and handled their business."
NOTES: Grizzlies PG Mike Conley won his second NBA Sportsmanship Award in three years. Conley has not played since March 6 because of a sore left Achilles. "An unbelievable honor," Conley said after being presented with the Joe Dumars Trophy before Sunday's game. ... Game 4 had a noon local time tip-off to accommodate national television. "The start time's gonna catch somebody," Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said before the game. "Hopefully, it's them." ... Spurs SF Kawhi Leonard had 32 points, seven rebounds, two assists, four steals and five blocks in playing 42 minutes in the 96-87 victory in Game 3. Leonard is just the fourth player to have at least 30 points and five blocks in a playoff game without making a turnover since the NBA started tracking turnovers in 1977-78. ... San Antonio has never lost a best-of-seven playoff series when leading 3-0, with a 14-0 series record all-time after Sunday's win.