Clippers’ Ivica Zubac proves a problem against Houston

first_img Clippers’ Paul George: ‘If I make shots, this series could be a little different’ “Game ball goes to ‘Zu’ tonight, G,” Patrick Beverley says in the video the Clippers posted online depicting the team huddling in the locker room after Thursday’s 120-105 runaway victory in Houston. “Way to hoop.”Starting center Ivica Zubac – aka. “Zu” or “Big Zu,” or “Zube” if Coach Doc Rivers is doing the talking – came up appropriately big in the victory against one of the Western Conference’s best teams, setting a Clippers record by scoring 17 points and collecting 12 rebounds in fewer than 21 minutes of play.Following direction, in other words.“We told him before the game, he’s definitely got to make an impact tonight,” forward Paul George told reporters after the game, referencing the Clippers’ game-planning in preparation for the Rockets’ ambitious small-ball system. Zubac has worked hard to improve so many facets of his game, from his footwork and speed to his rim protection and finishing. One area in which the 22-year-old Croatian big man has long been elite: listening.“Everybody’s on him and he don’t fold,” Beverley said earlier this season, describing an instance when six or seven coaches were in Zubac’s ear. “He stays mentally strong. He’s never barking back. He’s never fighting back. He’s taking all of the constructive criticism, and each game he’s been getting better and better.”Montrezl Harrell said his fellow big man takes it all to heart, which his teammates recognize and respect.“Zubac’s a young guy, he really gets down on himself at times, but it’s all about playing the correct way and picking each other up,” Harrell said. “We’re a team; we’re gonna win together, we’re gonna lose together, we’re all cheering for each other no matter what.”So the Clippers celebrated Zubac on Thursday, when, against the undersized Rockets, he was perhaps as good as he’s been. Houston had no answer for the Clippers’ 7-footer, who quickly recorded five rebounds in fewer than five minutes of play and, later, scored a big-time dunk on former league MVP James Harden. Clippers hope they can play to their capabilities, quell Mavericks’ momentum Game 4 photos: Luka Doncic, Mavs shock Clippers in overtime Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img What the Clippers are saying the day after Luka Doncic’s game-winner tied series, 2-2 He also currently ranks second in the NBA offensive rebounding percentage (14.8) and is the only member of the Clippers who has played in all 62 of their games this season.They’ll count on Zubac’s contributions again Sunday when they collide with his former team for the third time this season.The second-place Clippers will host the Western Conference-leading Lakers – who in 2016 drafted Zubac 32nd overall, and then last season traded him to the team down the hall for Mike Muscala – in a 12:30 p.m. showdown at Staples Center.Zubac’s squad will be riding a six-game winning streak, including Thursday’s rout of the Rockets in which he played such a big role and, as he put it, channeling the Clippers’ marketing department: “We played our way.” “He really was felt tonight,” said Kawhi Leonard, who had five assists Thursday – three on Zubac buckets. “He was a factor for us, being a big target, rolling to the basket, getting rebounds.”“He had to be huge for us and he stepped up to the plate and made himself available,” George added. “And he was physical with those guys.”Added Marcus Morris Sr.: “Big guys can’t guard him, let alone somebody smaller.”Zubac, who is shooting 60.6 percent from the field this season, hasn’t missed a shot since Feb. 26, going 14 for 14 in four games since.Related Articles For Lakers’ LeBron James, Jacob Blake’s shooting is bigger issue than a big Game 4 victory last_img read more