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Dallas Mavericks Need to Improve Handling of ‘X-Factor’ Ivica Zubac in Game 2 vs. Clippers

Vaseline 2 months ago

On Sunday, the Dallas Mavericks lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series, losing by a final score of 109-97.

Ivica Zubac was a key part of the Clippers’ success, finishing with 20 points and 15 rebounds. The Mavericks trailed by as many as 29 points, with the momentum going against them early, with Zubac scoring 10 points in the opening period alone.

“I think today it was definitely the “We have to be more physical with him and do a better job.”

Zubac, who finished with a career-high in the playoffs with 20 points and 15 rebounds, caught the ball deep in the paint and got to work 1-on-1 with whoever the Mavericks played in the middle, without help, or that now was was Daniel Gafford or Dereck Lively II.

“I’m just doing my job,” Zubac said.

Dallas was too afraid of Zubac spraying the ball to open shooters, and rightfully so, as the Clippers shot 18-36 from behind the arc in this game, but the Clippers seemed to be one step ahead the entire way.

As the Mavericks adjusted to Zubac, the Clippers began to rely more on James Harden and Paul George to make shots from the perimeter. If Zubac and Harden play as well as they did in this game, it will be easy to overcome playing without Kawhi Leonard like the Clippers did.

“Yes, (Ivica) Zubac was big. He dominated at the center position during Game 1,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said. “They played him in the post and we had no answer. We have to be better. We talked about Zubac and the skill he has when the shots go up. On the rebound, we need to make sure we send two to him, but either way, we need to protect him better in post.

Gafford wasn’t satisfied with his own effort tonight and admitted he needs to come out better prepared to play, especially in a postseason setting.

“Honestly, I just didn’t come here to play,” Gafford said. “I have to be better in areas that I always succeeded in throughout the regular season. I had to come out and I got to play playoff basketball…”

Gafford also went down in the second quarter with a minor ankle injury, forcing him to leave the game and head to the locker room early, but he returned to action in the second half.

Zubac not only made life difficult for the Mavericks’ interior defense, but he anchored the Clippers – allowing just 30 points in the first half and specifically just eight points in the second quarter.

“I know we’re a great defensive team. I have to be one of the leaders on defense,” Zubac said. “And that’s something that I’ve been doing for this team for a while, and no matter who it is, I just have to stick to the game plan.

“They’re going to make shots, Luka (Doncic) and Kyrie (Irving) are going to make hard shots, but we have to make it harder for them. That’s it,” Zubac explained. “I don’t worry about what anyone says about a series three years ago. That was three years ago and I know what our game plan is, what we’re willing to give up and try to take away and just stick with it. “

The Clippers seemed to play with more urgency overall, and it started with Zubac getting the ball in the post, a trend that may not continue for the rest of the series if the Mavericks want to advance.

The Mavericks need a better game plan for him in Game 2 on Tuesday at 9:00 PM CST at Arena.