Ivica Zubac is a can’t-miss kid in Clippers’ win over Dallas

Los Angeles Clippers' Ivica Zubac (40) dinks on Dallas Mavericks' Tim Hardaway Jr. (11) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Mavericks' Luka Doncic (77) looks on during the play. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)Los Angeles Clippers' Ivica Zubac (40) dinks on Dallas Mavericks' Tim Hardaway Jr. (11) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Mavericks' Luka Doncic (77) looks on during the play. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, Pool)
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Clippers center Ivica Zubac dunks against the Mavericks on Thursday night.  (Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Clippers center Ivica Zubac slipped toward the rim Thursday night and, catching a pass, dunked with both hands as a chorus of yells erupted from his team’s bench in the opposite corner inside HP Field House.  

Dallas immediately called a timeout, its deficit now eight points with four minutes to play in the third quarter. But before Zubac could reach a padded seat for a moment of rest, teammate Joakim Noah came off the bench and delivered a two-handed shove to Zubac’s chest. The two centers smiled.  

It was one of the few moments Thursday, during a 126-111 Clippers victory, when Zubac encountered resistance getting where he wanted to be. The young center made all his 10 shots to finish with 21 points, tying Charles Smith for the most field goals made in a game without a miss. He also grabbed 15 rebounds — including six on the offensive glass, only two less than the Mavericks’ entire roster managed.  

“He was phenomenal,” coach Doc Rivers said.  

Normally, late in a third quarter, it would be Zubac coming off the bench to celebrate the tide-turning play of a teammate. But with backup center Montrezl Harrell yet to rejoin the team, Rivers has played Zubac deeper into games. Two days earlier, the decision backfired following Zubac’s costly last-possession turnover in a loss to Phoenix, a moment that marred an otherwise sterling game.  

Thursday, however, Zubac was dominant from start to finish.  

«It felt good, man,» he said. 

Three observations

1. The victory was keyed by the Clippers’ critical response during the fourth quarter. After a 7-0 Dallas run trimmed their lead to one with 8:20 to play, the Clippers ripped off a 9-3 run during the next three minutes that provided breathing room entering the final stretch.  

2. No team during the restart had scored a lower percentage of its points in the paint than the Clippers, who’d averaged 32.7 points there in three previous games. Against the Mavericks, led by Zubac, the Clippers scored 58 points in the paint.  

3. In what was possibly a preview of a first-round playoff series, Dallas’ Luka Doncic had 29 points and Kristaps Porzingisscored 30. Rivers said the Clippers would need to do a better job finding the Mavericks’ shooters moving forward.