Clint Capela means more to the Rockets than many might know, and it was abundantly clear as Houston’s 14-game winning streak came to an end Wednesday in a 122-116 home loss to the Lakers.
As amazing as James Harden was scoring 24 points in the second quarter alone, the offense looked incredibly one dimensional. Harden had to score without Capela to run the pick-and-roll. Without Capela protecting the rim at the other end to create fast-break opportunities, the Lakers took advantage.
Capela talked last week about how he prides himself on dominating the paint on the defensive end.
“I saw there was nobody in the paint hardly at all,” he told Bleacher Report. “I just tried to break ’em down one-on-one. I can do those things in spurts sometimes.”
Rockets guard Eric Gordon noted how much better the team is when Capela is at his best, and when Capela is good it makes his backup Nene even better.
“The more [Capela and Nene] play well, the more they run up and down the floor, the easier our shots are gonna get,” Gordon told Bleacher Report. “That’s gonna be the next layer for our team, for them to have big, huge, tremendous nights. When they have big nights, I don’t ever see us losing a game. They change the game of how we play. When they run, the pace is faster, guys get open shots on the weak side.”
With Capela out Wednesday, the Rockets had to start Nene, which forced P.J. Tucker into a bigger role. Then down the stretch the 35-year-old Nene started to slow down, and when Tucker fouled out, the young Lakers team poured it on.
Capela is having the best year of his young career as he his averaging high-marks in points (14.0), rebounds (11.3) and blocked shots (1.8). His emergence has taken the Rockets from the 21st ranked defensive rebounding team in the league last season to the NBA’s best this season.