Rockets

Capela’s Poor Play Dooms Rockets in Game 2

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The Houston Rockets have found themselves in an 0-2 hole against the Golden State Warriors. They have been plagued by a number of factors – inefficient shooting, uncharacteristic turnovers, and lazy defense to name a few. James Harden and Chris Paul have been decent, but they have not been the superstars that the Rockets need them to be. None of these factors, though, are the reason that the Rockets have been unable to find any sort of offensive or defensive rhythm throughout the series thus far.

Instead, it has been the play of Clint Capela. Signed to a $90 million extension this offseason, Capela has become nearly unplayable against the Warriors.

Capela’s Defense

In the first two games of the series, the Warriors have started their “Hamptons 5” lineup. This effectively negates Capela’s defensive impact because he has to guard someone playing on the perimeter. Rather than stay in the post as a shot blocker, he is being forced to constantly switch and guard shooters. Capela, who was a dominant defensive force in the Utah series, has just two blocks over the first two games against the Warriors.

With Capela on the court this series, the Rockets’ defensive rating is an ugly 123.7. In the 36 minutes he has been off the court, the Rockets have established a 91.3 defensive rating. Therefore, when the Rockets have put out their own small-ball lineup, they have been highly successfully guarding the Warriors. Rather than have the lumbering Capela stuck on an island against Stephen Curry, a quicker player like Danuel House or Austin Rivers can guard the three-point line.

Capela’s Offense

Draymond Green has turned Capela into an absolute liability on offense. It’s as simple as that.

When Harden has the ball, Green is so adept at simultaneously guarding both the drive and the lob attempt. Capela has had a grand total of one successful alley-oop this series – a play that was run to perfection throughout the regular season. While Capela did put up 14 points in Game 2 – and was lauded by Kevin Harlan – his scoring never really came from any set plays and was more “right place at the right time”.

With Capela on the court, the Rockets’ offensive rating is 92.4. With him off the court, their offensive rating soars to 120.7. This is not an anomaly, and is an incredibly significant statistic. Let me repeat that in plainer terms – the Rockets are vastly outplaying the Warriors when Capela is off the court. Why? Because if Capela is replaced with a shooter like Gerald Green, Draymond cannot guard both Harden and the shooter. This has led to open shots on the perimeter, which the Rockets did a good job of knocking down in Game 2.

What’s the Solution?

Before the series, Clint Capela said that he was excited to face the Warriors:

Unfortunately, he seems to have set expectations a bit too high for himself. This Warriors team is simply too good for non-shooting centers like Capela to stay on the floor. He may be a great basketball player who has helped the Rockets in key moments throughout the season, but continuing to play him big minutes would be a huge mistake by Mike D’Antoni. He is unable to space the floor, making it easier for the Warriors to focus in on Harden. Harden is at his best and most efficient when his supporting cast is also firing on all cylinders; Capela’s inability to match up against the Warriors has limited any potential for efficiency from Harden.

At a 29.4 net impact with Capela off the floor, the Rockets have proven that they may not need him to beat the Warriors, though. Instead, the Rockets can rely on smaller shooters to match up with the Hamptons 5 lineup. Even some more action from Kenneth Faried – who is not only hyper-aggressive, but has also developed a three-point shot of his own – could make a huge impact.

The Rockets are down 0-2 in a series against one of the greatest teams of all time. They will need to win both games at home to give themselves a chance of moving forward. It is a tall task, but something that an MVP like James Harden is capable of. Even though Capela is the third best player on the team, the Rockets must accept that he cannot be an integral part of the lineup moving forward.

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About Zach Zola

Zach Zola is a student at Brown University studying English. He grew up in New York, but has been a die-hard Rockets fan since the days of Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady. He believes that James Harden is the only King James in the NBA.

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