The LA Clippers used a total team effort to top the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night, defeating the short-handed squad by a final tally of 115-96.
Despite their large margin of victory, this wasn't a victory that the Clippers were especially proud of.
"I didn't like the flow we had offensively," Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said after the game. "Not so much the turnovers, just the flow of the game. It was kind of choppy... Not that they did a bad job, I just didn't like the beginning of the game offensively."
The Clippers started the game with Patrick Beverley on the floor — his first start in over a month — but went to Reggie Jackson less than five minutes into the first quarter. LA ended up outscoring Toronto 27-19 in the opening frame, but a handful of turnovers and a weak performance from deep (2-9 3PT) were early blemishes.
LA took a step back defensively in the second quarter, allowing the Raptors to post 33 points — most of which came from their second unit. Fortunately, the Clippers got a significant boost from their bench as well and matched Toronto's 33-point output. LA got a helping hand from Rajon Rondo and Terance Mann in the frame, who combined for 16 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting from the field. All three of Rondo's buckets came from beyond the arc, where he's connected on 40.5% of his looks through his first 16 games with the Clippers.
LA stiffened up on defense in the third, giving up just 19 points and limiting the Raptors to just 2-of-7 shooting from three-point range. However, the Clippers also had their lowest-scoring stretch in the third as well, scoring 25 points and going 1-of-8 from deep. In addition, Paul George had four of LA's five turnovers in the frame — something Kawhi Leonard said the team must limit after the game.
"Some of the plays, we're just throwing the ball," Leonard said. "You know, not looking... It just comes between the ears. What type of mindset are we going to have, and do we want to win it? Because, you know, you need carryover. I guess we just got to keep moving forward. Can't keep talking about it, it's about doing it."
The Clippers finished the contest with 16 turnovers, marking the 18th time this season that they've committed 16 or more in a game. Cleaning those up will be crucial once the playoffs roll around later this month.
With that said, there were still several positives that we can take from LA's win over Toronto, so let's take a closer look at what all went right.
Ivica Zubac Becomes Permanent Fixture in Starting Lineup
Ivica Zubac could very well be one of the most underrated players in the NBA. The 24-year-old has already carved out a nice role as a dominant two-way big, using his size and agility to make plays on both ends of the floor.
Unsurprisingly, his high-level play has been recognized internally, and Zubac is being rewarded accordingly. Before tip-off, Lue told reporters that Zubac would stay in the starting rotation for the postseason, even after Serge Ibaka returns from a lengthy absence.
The decision doesn't come as much of a surprise. Speaking solely in terms of continuity, it would be strange to insert Ibaka back into the starting lineup, considering how well Zubac has done in the role over the last two months. In his last 29 appearances, all of which are starts, Zubac is averaging 10.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game and connecting on 65.3% of his field goal attempts.
Shortly after Lue broke the news, Zubac had one of his best performances of the season. In 30 minutes of action, Zubac went for 18 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and a block while going 8-of-12 from the field. It was the second time this season that Zubac had at least 18 points and 10 rebounds in a game.
"He has my trust on both ends of the floor," Leonard said after the game. "I think we're moving towards the right direction. He's very open, he listens, and you know, I'm the same way. So we just gotta keep building."
Terance Mann's Perfect Night
Terance Mann had arguably his best performance of the season on Tuesday night, going 7-for-7 from the field and 5-of-5 from the free-throw line in a 20-point effort off the bench. Not only did his 20 points tie Leonard for the game-high mark, but he did it in 10 minutes fewer than Leonard did.
"I just stay ready," Mann said after the game. "We're trying to figure it out right now, figure out what works with what, who works with who out there. Me and Luke [Kennard], we've been doing a great job of staying ready... That's what we're trying to do, just stay ready. You never know what's going to happen in the playoffs."
Mann has been in and out of the rotation all year long, with his role practically changing on a nightly basis. He's been more out than in lately, averaging just 7.8 minutes per game and logging a DNP in the four contests that preceded Tuesday's win.
With that said, it still looks like Mann could be a part of the playoff rotation. Lue has praised him for his positional versatility and two-way play, which are two skills that make him a valuable asset.
If Mann can keep his numbers up as the Clippers finish out the season, it'll be hard to keep him off the floor.
Jay Scrubb Makes NBA Debut
With the minutes winding down in the fourth quarter, the LA Clippers sent out their 20th different player of the 2020-21 season: Jay Scrubb. The Clippers acquired the 20-year-old rookie with the 55th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, but Scrubb had been unable to play until now due to a foot injury.
He spent the final four minutes on the floor, and although he didn't get any of his shot attempts to fall, he looked excited to finally make his debut.
"Jay has been working real hard," Mann said after the game. "He's been working real hard. Out there every day, getting shots up, preparing himself for when he gets out there on the court... He locked in, took rehab very seriously, and he's going to be a great player."
It's hard to tell exactly what the Clippers have in Scrubb. A finalist for the Kentucky Mr. Basketball award in 2018, Scrubb went on to play college basketball at John A. Logan College, a junior college in Illinois. As a sophomore, he was named the Junior College Player of the Year in 2020 after averaging 21.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.4 steals in 29 appearances.
With a few lesser opponents remaining on the schedule, there's a chance that Scrubb could see more action over these last few games.