Should the Houston Rockets start Nene over Clint Capela in Game 5?

As I wrote yesterday, it might be time for Mike D’Antoni to shake up the starting lineup with how terrible the Rockets have looked to start each half.  One possibility would be to slide Trevor Ariza to the ‘4’, and bring in either Lou Williams or Eric Gordon as a replacement for Ryan Anderson. The other option would be to start Game 4’s hero, Nene, in place of Clint Capela, the latter of whom was a -25 in the box score yesterday afternoon, and overall, has not had a good series, aside from a few moments here and there.

Capela overall has struggled with the Thunder’s length and physicality.  Here, Adams contests Harden, but look how fast Westbrook and Roberson converge, causing Capela to fumble the pass out of bounds.

Finishing off James Harden feeds was Capela’s bread and butter this year, but he looks like Trevor Ariza on this play.  Again, Adams is out of the picture, but again, Roberson and Oladipo converge immediately, disrupting the shot.  Steven Adams is a handful, but Capela’s problems offensively have had as much to do about the disruptive qualities of the Thunder perimeter players.  They’re long, athletic, and they react quickly.  Thankfully, not every team features defenders like this at its skill positions.

This time its Adam’s defending, but again, Westbrook helps, resulting in a wild shot.

Again, Westbrook helps, breaking up the lob at the rim.

At the other end, I watched all of Steven Adams’ offensive rebounds (4) and made baskets (8).  Here, Adams just muscles Capela out of the way and gets the putback.  Surprisingly, all of Adams’ other baskets either came against other defenders (Nene, Harden), or running the floor.  He beat Capela down the floor several times.

Like the above.

I didn’t have time to go through all of the Thunder’s offensive rebounds (or even just Taj Gibson’s made baskets), and I also can’t pinpoint instances of failed help defense through’s box score, so I can’t really speak to Capela’s performance there in this piece.  Off the top of my head though, there was one play in particular where he watched Steven Adams back down James Harden and didn’t attempt to help until the very last second, when it was too late.

Two things stand out: Capela’s struggles have been as much about the Thunder’s perimeter length and athleticism as they have been about Steven Adams and Taj Gibson.  Secondly, it’s been shocking how unready for the moment Capela has seemed so far in this series.  That’s a surprise because my first memory of Capela was during his rookie year, in the Conference Finals, against Golden State, just not giving a f*** and taking names.  Now he seems completely fazed, two years later, in a first round series, after he’s been named the man and the rightful heir apparent to Dwight Howard.

But the NBA is a game of matchups more than anything.  And this is a bad one for Capela.  If you bench him for Game 5, I don’t know that you run the risk of losing him for the rest of the postseason, emotionally – he and Nene were platooning all year anyway.  I think the Spurs will probably be a better matchup for Clint, particularly when Pau Gasol is on the floor.  As bad as he’s looked this series, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.  He had some great moments at home earlier in the series, protecting the rim.  Clint is going to show up big at some point during this postseason run.  But for now, it might be time to give Montrezl Harrell a shot, and Nene the starting role, at least until the Rockets are safely able to advance.

About the author: Rahat Huq is a lawyer in real life and the founder and editor-in-chief of

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Houston Rockets take strangle hold on series with Game 4 win over Thunder