Right when it looked like the Los Angeles Clippers had full control of their first-round series against the Dallas Mavericks, they went out and suffered another home loss in Game 5. LA certainly had its chances late, but the club couldn’t quite dig out of a 16-point hole in the fourth quarter.

Luka Doncic put the Clippers in that hole with a dominant first three quarters, going for 40 points to help the Mavs build up that big lead. Doncic scuffled in the fourth quarter again as he continues to wear down late in games after carrying such a big load to start, and this is also when LA usually ramps up the defensive pressure with smaller, more switchable lineups.

This means no ivica zubac, who has actually been something of a barometer this series. In the three Clippers losses so far, Zubac played 19 minutes or more. In the two wins, he was under 19 minutes.

Furthermore, looking at Doncic’s stats with and without Zubac on the court, it seems clear LA should be playing the big man less:

Live and breathe the NBA?

🚨 Get viral NBA graphics, memes, rumors and trending news delivered right to your inbox with the Clutch Newsletter.

Zubac began the series as the starting center, but he was moved to the bench after Game 3. That game saw the Clippers get off to a terrible start before storming back to win. Tyronn Lue had finally seen enough of Zubac in the starting lineup, so he made a change to a smaller lineup for Game 4.

It would certainly be helpful if Serge Ibaka was healthy for this series. He’s not what he once was but would still be a solid option if the Clippers wanted to play bigger. But he’s not healthy, and Zubac simply isn’t effective when playing against Doncic. The Mavs don’t have big guys who can really punish LA down low (Kristaps Porzingis just floats around the arc these days and Boban isn’t good enough to do it consistently), so Zubac shouldn’t be playing much, if at all.

The Clippers should fully commit to playing small, and they must swarm Doncic as much as possible. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George need to step up defensively, and the team as a whole needs to make the others beat them. That’s easier said than done given Doncic’s craftiness and ability to get to his spots, but LA needs to figure out a way to get it done.

Otherwise, it will just be be another Clippers playoff disaster.