The light turned on for Clippers center Ivica Zubac during the fourth quarter of Game 3 on Thursday night, his arrival to the first-round playoff series coming when he produced an impressive double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds in the final 12 minutes of a blowout loss to the Golden State Warriors.
His effectiveness to that point in the playoffs had been minuscule.
He had scored one point and grabbed one rebound in limited action through three quarters of Game 3. He had netted just two points and collected six rebounds in the first two games of the best-of-seven series.
That bounce-back fourth quarter might be Zubac’s impetus heading into Game 4 against the Warriors on Sunday afternoon at Staples Center.
“I needed that. It was a tough series for everyone, including me,” Zubac said before the Clippers’ practice Saturday. “I just didn’t have much opportunity to get shots up or to score. So it was big for me and for my confidence. It should be helpful going into Game 4.”
The 22-year-old Zubac is participating in the playoffs for the first time in his three-year career, and he has started to realize the postseason is vastly different from the regular season.
Zubac maintains that his confidence remained high before his outburst allowed him to finish with 18 points on eight-for-12 shooting, 15 rebounds and one blocked shot for Game 3.
He was replaced by JaMychal Green to start the second half of Game 3. Zubac did his yeoman work after entering the game with the Clippers down by 35 points in the third quarter in an eventual 132-105 loss.
“That stuff, I don’t care about that stuff,” the 7-foot-1 center said. “But every time I make a mistake, I put some pressure on myself. That’s not really good. I’m trying not to do that. My teammates and coaches and everyone were telling me about that before the playoffs. So before Game 2, I was putting pressure on myself. But now I started to learn how to have a next-play mentality.”
Whether or not Zubac has earned more minutes will depend on his play.
“I don’t know. The game will tell us that, you know?” coach Doc Rivers said. “I’ve always said this about minutes: I’m usually not the guy who gives them. It’s usually the players that earn ’em, you know? I don’t think that’s ever changed in any team.”
Will Rivers make changes to his starting lineup for Game 4? That was the question presented to him for the second consecutive day, and he still didn’t provide any insight.
“I doubt it, but I don’t know,” Rivers said, before saying to reporters, “I do know, but I’m not telling you.”
If Rivers does make changes, he said he doesn’t think they will affect his team in any way.
“We’ve made changes all year,” he said. “… We try to stay as consistent as possible because I actually believe in that. But I also think this team is a team that has no problem changing. We started a different lineup in the second half the other night. We’ve made changes, and I don’t think this is a hard team for that.”