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Frank Vogel Explains Decision to Bench Jusuf Nurkić in Second Half vs. Clippers

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With 6:42 left in the third quarter of tonight’s 138-111 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, the Suns decided to sub out Jusuf Nurkić with the team trailing 81-70 and never put their starting center back in.

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Nurkić was coming off a game in which he posted 18 points, 19 rebounds and five assists in 32 minutes the Suns’ 121-115 loss to the Grizzlies Sunday. Tonight, he finished playing only 21 minutes, recording eight points, three rebounds and two assists. This was the Suns’ second straight game with all of the Big 3 healthy and only the sixth of the season.

With Nurkić on the bench, the Clippers ended up outscoring the Suns 37-20 in the fourth quarter. The game turned out to be yet another time this season when the Suns struggle mightily in the final period.

Coach Frank Vogel explained the decision to take Nurkić after the game.

“We were in the bench unit,” Vogel said. “We wanted to look at what Drew (Eubanks) was doing in that stretch; we weren’t getting stops. I was looking for a way to try to generate some stops and get our guys out in the open court.”

Eubanks ended the night having played 16 minutes and totaling 0 points, four rebounds and two blocks.

The Suns even ended up going super small in the second half with Keita Bates-Diop or Kevin Durant playing the five. This was an attempt “to try to change the game,” Vogel said.

All of this came after the Clippers after shot 67% in the first half. For the game, LA shot 53-of-85 (62%) from the field and made 15-of-29 (52%) threes.

“They’ve got three Hall of Famers that are really hard to guard,” Vogel said. “So trying to mix pitches, show them different coverages. go to a one-through-five switching scheme, (which) is something that actually generated some some activity, got them off balance for a little bit, but wasn’t enough to get a W.”

Ivica Zubac Caused Problems for Suns, Jusuf Nurkić

Even with LA’s four stars of James Harden (who finished with 19 points, ten assists and seven rebounds), Paul George (25 points and seven rebounds), Kawhi Leonard (17 points) and Russell Westbrook (nine points and seven rebounds), Ivica Zubac, the Clippers’ starting center, was the one who posed arguably the biggest challenge for Phoenix tonight.

Zubac was coming off a 22-point, 19-rebound performance Sunday. He kept up his strong play against the Suns, finishing with 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting and eight rebounds.

“Zubac was great,” Vogel said. “He’s a hell of a player. They’ve got a complete team. They’re really deep; they got four Hall of Famers, and they’re just further along than we are right now. It’s gonna take time, we’ll be okay.”

The Suns now have a much-needed full two days off and play once again in Los Angeles Thursday night against the Lakers, who are already 3-0 against the Suns this season.

See more on why Vogel isn’t wavering in confidence in his team after tonight’s loss:

Frank Vogel Remaining Confident after Blowout Loss to Clippers with Big 3 All Healthy

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Brendan Mau is a senior writer covering the Phoenix Suns and more for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau

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