Crashing the boards, throwing up jump hooks, and deterring shots all night, the potential of Ivica Zubac was on full display Wednesday in the Clippers’ battle against the Nuggets. And though that battle resulted in a loss for the Clippers, the production and development of Zubac has become a point of personal pride for Clips Nation and me.
While Zubac and Nikola Jokic were having their duel, across the country, another big was also putting up a career night.
Joel Embiid, who posted 50 points on 17-for-23 shooting on Wednesday, led his team to a victory over the Orlando Magic. The 76ers sit tight at fifth seed in the East with a 26-18 record. And part of that must be attributed to the all-around dominance of Embiid, who has scored 30 or more points in 11 of his last 12 games. The Process has upgraded his scoring ability to become impactful on all three levels, all while anchoring a respectable defense. The result? A PER of 30.70, good for third in the league.
Now Zubac has his hands full again. Two days after facing the reigning MVP, he and the Clippers are tasked with traveling 1,732 miles to try and defend another imposing interior force. Perhaps he himself put it best. “That’s the NBA for you,” Zubac said.
When: Friday, January 21 at 4 p.m. PT
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
How to watch/listen: Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570
Opposing perspective: Liberty Ballers
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Amir Coffey, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac
76ers: Tyrese Maxey, Furkan Korkmaz, Charlie Brown Jr., Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid
Clippers: Paul George, Keon Johnson, Kawhi Leonard, Jason Preston, Jay Scrubb — OUT
76ers: Seth Curry — QUESTIONABLE; Danny Green, Shake Milton, Paul Reed, Ben Simmons, Jaden Springer, Matisse Thybulle— OUT
If the Clippers are to win, they will likely be looking to take advantage of two weaknesses of the Sixers: rebounding and wing depth.
Although rebounding for the Clippers has been a point of concern, the Sixers happen to be one of three teams with a lower rebounding percentage. Expect the trio of Clippers centers — especially the younger Isaiah Hartenstein and Zubac — to stay engaged and take advantage of fresh legs.
Similarly, with Matisse Thybulle, Ben Simmons, and Danny Green out, the Sixers defense will likely be hampered. And with Seth Curry and Shake Milton similarly questionable or out, respectively, Philadelphia’s offensive backcourt production is another weakness the Clippers must be able to take advantage of.
If Zubac can step up again, it would go a long way towards securing a win against a formidable Eastern team. Zubac, who has been averaging career bests in points, rebounds, blocks, steals, field goal percentage, and minutes, has emerged as a reliable presence for the Clippers through an otherwise turbulent season. Another dominant performance, especially one against the coach who previously refused to play him in fourth quarters, might just satisfy all the requirements to be considered poetic justice.
32 PTS | 78.9% FG | 10 REB— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) January 20, 2022
The big night, for the big man. pic.twitter.com/PZY6gYFocK
Or perhaps someone else entirely will step up, just as Zubac did last game and Batum did the game before. The Clippers, in their relentless desire to compete, seem intent on finding contributions from everywhere. Back-to-back 32 point career performances from their role players is no small feat. A random scoring outburst from Reggie Jackson or someone else of that ilk would be greatly appreciated.
One way or another, expect the Clippers to compete. In the meantime, vote Paul George for the All-Star game.