The Houston Rockets’ dynamic offence and All-Star backcourt get most of the attention, but it’s their defence that has been their bedrock in the playoffs.
In a series that features Defensive Player of the Year candidate Rudy Gobert, it’s been Capela who has arguably had the greatest impact defending his team’s basket.
The 23-year-old centre had six blocks to go with two steals, 15 rebounds and 12 points in Game 4, and even when he wasn’t swatting Utah shots he was often altering them.
Clint Capela became the fourth player in the last 20 years to block as many as five shots in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. Capela joined Greg Ostertag (1998), Dwight Howard (2010), and JaVale McGee (2012) who all had exactly five blocks in the 4th. @EliasSports pic.twitter.com/Dzjlr3DgwB— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) May 7, 2018
“It’s so many things that happen throughout the game that don’t show up on the stat sheet,” Chris Paul said of Capela. “It shows how selfless he is.”
Capela’s impact in the series, however, has been obvious through the numbers.
Aside from his 13 total blocks, the big man is tied for the most loose balls recovered in the conference semi-finals with 11, while contesting the second-most 2-pointers with 54 and the second-most 3-pointers with 19.
After shooting 37.6 per cent in the paint (non-restricted area) during the regular season, the Jazz are converting just 23.6 per cent (13-of-55) from that region in this series.
While Paul and James Harden have deservedly been credited for Houston’s strong season in which they won an NBA-best 65 games, Capela has emerged as a third, less-heralded star and the centrepiece of a defence that finished fifth in defensive rating with 103.8 points allowed per 100 possessions.
“He’s put himself in this position to go out there and play at a high level and do the things that we ask him to do every single night,” Harden said of Capela.
“I mean, he has our back, and it feels good to have somebody have our back like he does. He doesn’t get a lot of credit for it.”
With the way Capela is shining on the playoff stage, the credit is starting to come.
Having been humbled by the Pelicans in game three, the Warriors were in no mood to humour the home fans at the Smoothie King Centre, racing into a 14-4 lead early on.
Kevin Durant took his team and possibly the series by the scruff of the next with 38 points off 27 attempts, rebounding nine times. Steph Curry – back from injury – posted 23 and guard Quinn Cook chipped in with 12 from the bench.
Anthony Davis offered 26 for the Pelicans, who now have it all to do if they are to extend their season.
Chris Paul celebrated his 33rd birthday by out-scoring MVP favourite James Harden as the Rockets won.
Paul put up 27 on a rare night when Harden was eclipsed, adding 12 rebounds and six assists for good measure. Clint Capela was outstanding too, offering six blocks, 12 points and 15 redounds.
Twenty-five points from Donovan Mitchell were not enough to fire up the Jazz sufficiently.
Game 4 between the teams is Sunday night and it will once again be crucial for New Orleans to pull out a win to give themselves a fighting chance when the series shifts back to the Bay.
Before Game 4, relive the Pelicans’ strong performance in Game 3 with the highlights below.