One of the more unheralded aspects of the Houston Rockets playoff run has been the defense.
Known for a high-flying offense, the Rockets have actually played some pretty good, and dare I say, almost elite level defense in the playoffs.
The Rockets have a 105.8 defensive net rating, third-best in the playoffs, and they are only behind the Golden State Warriors among the six teams still in action.
The anchor of the Rockets’ now-lockdown defense is not Trevor Ariza or Patrick Beverley, but Clint Capela. He’s been the guy who's stepped up and is starting to become a true paint protector.
Beverley and Ariza are doing a great job on the ball and limiting their assignments as best as they can, but the third-year center has really come to play and is making the defense that much tougher.
The Swiss center, during this playoff run has a 101 defensive rating to go along with 2.7 blocks in just about 25 minutes a game.
Capela's best game of the playoffs came in Game 3 against the Spurs. While the Rockets lost 103-92, Capela played more than 30 minutes for the first time during the playoffs and grabbed 16 rebounds while blocking five shots. The third-year center was all over the court, making plays and doing his damnedest to keep the team in the game defensively, but the offense wasn't able to score and the team fell.
Since his mid-Game 5 turnaround against the Thunder, Capela has been active and is starting to get more aggressive in the paint, which is a massive win for the Rockets.
In Game 4 against the Spurs, Capela even got the ball down low in the post and took LaMarcus Aldridge to school, draining a hook shot over him. Now that's not sustainable, every-possession offense by the Rockets, but more confidence from Capela is making him more effective on both ends of the floor. His finishing around the basket was atrocious in the first-round. It’s been excellent against the Spurs’ older front line.
The Spurs run a lot of post-ups, and you'd think the veteran craftiness of Pau Gasol and Aldridge would be eating up the skinnier, younger Capela. But so far, he's only allowing a 23.5 field goal percentage on shots he contests. It’s a small sample, but an amazing stat nonetheless.
Capela has been a factor, be it changing shots in the paint, playing above average one-one defense in the post or smartly doubling of Aldridge when he starts backing down Ryan Anderson or James, Harden.
The Swiss Roll's emergence on the defensive side of the ball is a welcome sight, as is his increase in minutes. The Rockets need more of his very best with Nene out for the rest of the year.