So the crafty Mike D’Antoni did have an NBA championship trick up his sleeve. Who would have thought it would involve a young center with a world of potential and a traditional posture ?
In the age of small ball, where nobody relies on the trey more than the Houston Rockets, a playoffs X-factor has emerged in third-year, Swiss import Clint Capela, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound dunking terror.
Capela scored a career-high 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting with his shots coming from no more than 5-feet from the basket in the Rockets’ 126-99 drubbing of the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals. The long, lanky paint presence also pulled 13 boards and added 2 blocks to his coming out performance.
Capela, whose parents are from Angola and the Congo, was born in Geneva, Switzerland and averaged a career-high 12.1 points and 8 rebounds in 2017 as the inside force that analysts say Houston doesn’t possess. Harden dominates the ball in Houston’s offense and the MVP candidate also dominates the headlines. Most experts don’t give Houston a shot to advance to the NBA Finals.
If last night’s Game 1 between Houston and San Antonio is any indication of the playoff future, then Harden and D’Antoni could be on the verge of doing something special thanks to Capela, a player that most hoops fans don’t even know exist.
Capela sprouted as a 13-year old and by 15 he dashed his dreams of playing in the NFL and played basketball in the European Junior Championships with the Swiss team and joined the Chalon-sur-Saône training center, INSEP, in France. In 2014, Capela represented the World Team at the 2014 Nike Hoop Summit and later that month, he entered the NBA draft and was scooped by Houston with the 25th overall pick of the first round.
Three years later and his playoff emergence changes how San Antonio must defend Houston and it also allowed Harden to be more Magic Johnson than Michael Jordan as he limited his shot attempts to 13 and scored just 20 points while dishing out 14 assists in Game 1. He's truly showing an ability to adjust his game for the good of the team as six Rockets players scored in double figures and as a team they had 30 assists.
It was a masterful performance, no doubt inspired by the play of Capela, who owned LaMarcus "Marshmellow" Aldridge and has now given the great Gregg Popovich something to really think about. I mean, who worries about defending big men anymore? And Tim Duncan isn't manning the middle. In fact, Duncan may have retired a year too early.
D'Antoni's got to be smiling from ear to ear because the Rockets just added another dimension to their dangerous run-n-shoot offense. If Capel continues this level of play then the way we look at Houston and the possibilities of this NBA season changes dramatically.