Playing without JaVale McGee for a third consecutive game, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton turned to Ivica Zubac to help combat the New Orleans Pelicans’ twin towers in Anthony Davis and Julius Randle.
Tyson Chandler had started the previous two games McGee missed, which in no fault of only his, were back-to-back losses for the Lakers. Davis had another monster performance for the Pelicans, registering game-highs with 30 points and 20 rebounds, and Randle had 21 points and 8 rebounds.
But Zubac held his own, establishing an early rhythm with LeBron James and connecting on his first five field goal attempts. Zubac went on to finish with 16 points and 11 rebounds for his first double-double since Feb. 15.
Zubac punctuated the performance with a block on both Davis and Randle in the fourth quarter. The second of which was particularly satisfying. “It felt really good. He’s been bullying me in practice since I got in the league,” Zubac said.
Randle did have his moments where he overpowered Kyle Kuzma and Zubac, but the Lakers also did well to contest most of his makes.
As for the start, Zubac drew from the 11 made as a rookie, though also conceded Friday’s game brought about different pressure and feeling given the Lakers are now contending to make the playoffs. So he leaned on messages and advice McGee sent via text message.
“He was preparing me for this, and it really helped me,” Zubac said. “He told me to get our film guy to pull up all the videos on how players made Anthony Davis and Julius miss. That really helped.
“In the first half Julius got to the middle a few times but I think I did a better job in the second half of keeping him out of the paint.”
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