While everyone is piling on the Los Angeles Clippers after blowing a 3-1 series lead and losing to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals, the Mile High City team certainly deserves a lot credit — particularly Nikola Jokic.
The Serbian big man had his way with them, and the Clippers didn’t seem to have a way to stop him. Although many fans pointed out that Ivica Zubac held his own against the Serbian (a lot better than Montrezl Harrell), the fact is Jokic was simply too much to handle for Doc River’s squad.
According to NBA Advanced Stats Player Tracking analysis for the series, Nikola Jokic was 29-of-61 (47.5%) when defended by Ivica Zubac. He was 13-of-20 (65%) when defended by Montrezl Harrell. 120.4 ORtg for Denver with Jokic and Harrell on; 105.6 with Jokic on and Harrell off.
— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) September 16, 2020
However, on the Locked On Nuggets Podcast, hosts Matt Moore and Adams Mares expressed their disapproval with the narrative that playing Zubac more minutes against Nikola Jokic would have changed the outcome of the series for the Clippers.
Matt Moore: I have a bomb that I need to drop. I need this. I just need this. GET OUT OF HERE WITH IVICA ZUBAC. GET OUT. GET OUT. GET ALL THE WAY OUT. Leave the building, go out the door down the street, and away from my sight for forever.
Adam Mares: Matt, you and I knew this one though. For Game 1, this was a Game 1 narrative that was like come on.
Matt: The entire conversation over the last 72 hours has been about how ‘”f Doc will just stop playing Montrezl Harrell they’re gonna win! If you look at the minutes for Zubac on the floor, if you look at the net ratings.”
I love all these numbers. I’m telling you, I’m telling you, he’s gonna cook whoever. If Zubac plays me, that just means he’s more roasted. It was always gonna go this direction. Get out of here. Get out of here. He’s replacement level. He’s fine. He’s fine.
Adam: He’s fine. Yeah, exactly. That’s exactly it. He’s not fine, great.
Matt: Montrezl Harrell was worse, I’m not denying that. Montrezl Harrell should have played way less in Games 5 and 6. They needed to go small and try and survive. That’s what they needed to try and do. But the problem was, Jokic has such a big matchup advantage in the series. You said he was going to kill them if they went small, right? There wasn’t a counter. There wasn’t, there wasn’t a counter. I don’t want to hear any more talk Zubac again.