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Shorthanded Rockets lose late to Raptors, 99-96

We witnessed the birth of CLINTSANITY, but there just weren't enough bodies tonight.

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

It was a matchup between two very different types of playoff teams tonight. The Rockets were without Patrick Beverley (now out for the season to have surgery on his wrist), Dwight Howard (sitting out the second half of a back-to-back), Donatas Motiejunas (back spasms), and Terrence Jones (voodoo curse). The Raptors were missing their best player, Kyle Lowry, but otherwise are a healthy basketball team that isn't very good. They played about even, and the Raptors squeaked by.

Just look at the minutes totals for non-starters in this game if you want an idea of how weird tonight was. Clint Capela got his first real run in the NBA tonight. Nick Johnson played more minutes in a game than he had since December, and K.J. McDaniels still didn't play, inexplicably.

  • Brewer: 33 minutes
  • Prigioni: 22 minutes
  • Capela: 19 minutes
  • Johnson: 15 minutes
  • ...that's it. No other reserve played.
With Josh Smith playing abysmally as a starter and Ariza taking the entire first half off (metaphorically), it was up to the Rockets' bench to support James Harden tonight, which was funny in a horrifying kind of way, considering it was the thinnest the Rockets' bench has been all season. I mean, look at those minutes totals again!

Nick Johnson scrapped all over the place, grabbing a couple of offensive rebounds and somehow fouling five times. But the story of the game was Clint Capela, the Rockets' most recent first round pick. He had 8 points, 9 rebounds (3 offensive) and 2 blocks (with only 2 fouls), but the numbers don't tell the story. Sure, he was late on his defensive rotations (and way too eager to get highlight-reel blocks), but he was great on the glass, and threw down some monster dunks. Observe CLINTSANITY as it began tonight:

Clint Capela's got some bounce.

Clint Capela might also have some deep-seated rage issues:

(P.S. Thank you Pablo Prigioni, for your pick-and-roll wizardry and your suave Argentinian-ness, making Capela look good.)

Clint Capela attempted five field goals, completing four, all dunks. He also attempted three free throws. You may ask me, did he make those free throws? I would answer no. No he did not.

He was obviously super hyped to be out there, and it was infectious in a game that otherwise could have felt like a death march on the second game of a road back-to-back. He played with the frantic energy we expected on defense, but he was surprisingly good on the pick-and-roll, showing quickness in getting to the hoop and (obviously) the hops to finish strong. I know it would be asking too much of Kevin McHale to keep giving him minutes -- it would be completely out of character -- but there's obviously something there. It was great to see.

James Harden was his usual MVP self, and it almost goes without saying that the Rockets would not have had a chance in this game if he wasn't out there in beast mode. He had 31 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds. He only shot 9-22, but that was obviously a function of being the only real offensive option against a defense selling out to stop him.

Josh Smith had the most disappointing performance of any Rocket tonight. He had the most responsibility of any of his games in a Rocket uniform, and he shrunk from the opportunity. He drifted around the perimeter and didn't spend any time in the low post, which is always his best spot on offense. But that's forgivable when you consider he spent most of the game sharing the floor with Joey Dorsey and Capela, who have less range than Dwight Howard. Smoove finished with 8 points on 3-14 shooting, including 0-4 from three and 2-4 from the line. Yuck.

Trevor Ariza is the true yeoman of this Rockets team. He played 39 minutes and is still averaging over 35 a game, a close second behind Harden's 36. Ariza drew the DeMar DeRozan assignment for most of the game, who scored 42 points on a combination of him and James Harden. He had a pretty good second half in terms of transition offense and defense, and finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

DeRozan was like 90's Harden, getting to the line and playing hero ball, only with midrange shots instead of threes, and he hit them all tonight. He pretty much beat the Rockets by himself tonight -- but when I say "the Rockets," I mean "about half of the Rockets."

The Rockets' next game is in Houston against the Kings, who just gave Memphis back the 2 seed in the West with their loss and the Rockets' loss, Wednesday night.