Thursday was one for the record books for Clippers center Ivica Zubac. In LA’s 126-111 win over the Dallas Mavericks, the 23-year-old put up a stat line never before seen in NBA history. He became the first player in the shot clock era to finish a game with 20 points and 15 rebounds while shooting 100 percent from the field in under 30 minutes.
“It felt good,” Zubac said of his performance. “I just kept doing my job, rolling, in the paint. My teammates kept finding me. They had confidence in me. Got some easy offensive rebounds, putbacks. It just felt good.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I was pretty sure I was 100 percent from the field. Sometimes they give you some tips you might have got your hand on, they count it as a miss. But it feels great, you know, to get rewarded by my teammates after doing all the hard work.”
Overall, Zubac finished with 21 points and 15 rebounds while going 10-for-10 from the field in 24 minutes. Not only was Zubac all over the glass on the defensive side of the ball, he was a strong presence on the offensive side, too.
“I thought he honestly set the tone tonight,” Paul George said of his teammate’s performance. “I thought he established the middle presence. I mean, he just kept a bunch of plays alive. He defended his tail off, just loaded up. He was there all game. Tonight was challenging. He had to guard a stretch shooter. I thought he did a great job of doing both, moving his feet. Sometimes he was switched on guards. I thought overall tonight he was locked in. That’s what we need from him.”
The Clippers don’t need 20 and 15 from Zubac every night (though that would be great). But if he can be a dominant force in the minutes he plays, it can definitely help take the Clippers to the next level.
This is the second great game in a row that Zubac has had. The other day against the Suns, the center finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds, but his performance was largely remembered for a last-second turnover that ended up costing the Clippers the game.
“He was phenomenal,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “He did the things we needed. He really ran the floor. That didn’t show up statistically, but what it did, it created space, it created mismatches. I loved that our guys were looking for him. I thought his rebounding was fantastic. Really coming off the way we ended the game the other day with Zu, then coming back tonight, playing like that, that was fantastic for his confidence.”
Zubac attributes all his recent success to his conditioning. He said that he’s finally getting the feel back and is remembering the best spots on the court for him. He says he feels like he can stay on the floor for a while. He’s able to run the floor, fight in the post, and grab rebounds. It’s taken every aspect of his game to the next level.
As mentioned earlier, Zubac’s crucial last-second turnover cost the Clippers the game against the Suns. Zubac jokingly said that this performance was needed because he said George was on him constantly over the last two days because of it.
“I mean, Zu is like a little brother,” George said. “He’s got a ton of upside. He really has tons of potential. He can do a lot of things. I’ve seen it. I’ve been on the other end when he was with the Lakers and he dominated. I just expect a lot from him. It’s good. I think he’s a guy that enjoys and loves that pressure because we get on him and he responds really well. I just want the best for him. I see a great future with Zu. My job is to try to help him, try to get him to the next level.”