Last offseason, the Clippers let Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell walk out the door and brought in Serge Ibaka because his combination of rim protection and floor spacing was what they needed in the playoffs.
But Ibaka missed 30 regular season games with a back issue and that has lingered into the postseason, where he has played 18 mostly ineffective minutes through two games against Dallas (both Clippers losses). Now entering a not-literally-but-yes-it-is must-win Game 3 in Dallas Friday, Ibaka will be out, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 28, 2021
On the off day in the series, the Clippers listed Ibaka as questionable due to back spasms.
No Ibaka may be status quo at this point for the Clippers, but it is a problem in this series. Tyronn Lue will have to start Ivica Zubac at center, but Luka Doncic is hunting him in switches and torching him when matched up. Extended Zubac minutes are not a good option for the Clippers. That leaves the choices of going with Marcus Morris at center, or go small with a Terance Mann/Paul George/Kawhi Leonard front line (which looked like the best option in Game 2 and how Lue closed the game). Neither of those options has worked well for the Clippers in this series.
Whatever the Clippers do, they need a more active and connected defense in Game 3, or they can start booking their Cancun vacations because this series will be all but over.