Houston Center disappeared in Game 1 after saying he wanted the Warriors

Capela Needs to be Big for Rockets to have a chance

Clint Capela. Getty Images

Clint Capela Jason Miller

Clint Capela wanted to meet up with the Warriors in the playoffs this year. He said as much when he spoke to the media after the Rockets eliminated the Utah Jazz. He also was the one who said that the Rockets were the better team after Golden State eliminated Houston in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals last season. You have to love the confidence the young center has in his team, but with that boastful and cocky attitude must come performances that back it up, or at least contribute to his team's success.

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You most certainly wouldn't want to be a -17 while on the floor with only 4 points and 6 rebounds in 27 minutes on the floor, while the combination of Andrew Bogut and Kevon Looney combined for 2 more points and the same amount of rebounds in 6 fewer minutes of game time.

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Clint Capela needs to dominate down low if the Rockets have any chance of making this a long series, let alone winning it. When you compare these two teams that know each other so well and look at matchups where Houston should have an advantage, you immediately point at the center position. Golden State lost their all-star big man in the first round against the Clippers when DeMarcus Cousins went down with a serious quad injury. He was a force down low for the defending champions, and once he recovered from his torn Achilles tendon suffered last season, he was the dominating post presence that the Warriors lacked and gave them an element that they hadn't before had in the "Splash Brothers" era. In his last appearance against Capela and the Rockets in the final meeting between the two teams in the regular season, Cousins could not be stopped and was their go-to guy down the stretch as he put Capela on skates and scored multiple key baskets in the paint to close out the Golden State victory. He finished that game with 27 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists in 32 minutes of action, while Capela had 13 points and 13 rebounds in 40 minutes on the floor. It's pretty simple when you look at that matchup in this series, with Cousins out, Capela should be able to dominate the paint defensively and clean the glass, while running the floor for easy baskets in transition against the slower and less skilled Golden State reserve bigs. After one game, that was obviously not the case.

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We all know that Clint Capela is not an offensive powerhouse who gets his numbers scoring down low with a plethora of moves in the paint. The good news is he doesn't need to be with the system and team he has around him. Capela is at his best when he gets involved in pick and roll basketball with James Harden and Chris Paul that leads to lobs at the rim and dunks in the lane. He is an elite athlete at his size so when he gets out in transition there are not many big men in the NBA that can keep up with him. Most importantly he is an above average defender that has length and size to alter shots around the basket, he can defend on the low block and he rebounds at a high level even when the game is played at a very fast pace. We have all seen the numbers by now and know that when he is on the floor doing those things and playing alongside Harden and Paul, the Rockets are a championship caliber basketball team. When he doesn't, they may not be good enough to get out of the second round let alone beat the Golden State Warriors.

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Jae'Sean Tate had himself a night. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

No Christian Wood. No Kevin Porter Jr. No Jalen Green. No problem. Jae’ Sean Tate became a complete superhero for the Houston Rockets versus the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.

He recorded 32 points, 10 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 5.0 blocks, and 2.0 steals and shot 73 percent from the field. With that stat line, he joined former Rocket Hakeem Olajuwon and other historic big men from the past, which Tim MacMahon reported.

Tate is known for his leadership and the ability to be humble. When a reporter asked Tate about the stat line, he said, “How many turnovers? Nah, 25 assists, that’s what sup! Can’t be mad at that.” An expression like that shows the importance of putting his teammates first before taking all the shine. Tate is providing more passion with communication and being the rock that the "Baby Rockets" can lean on.

Coach Silas' confidence in Tate is something built from last year and it shows. Those two have constant dialogue throughout the game, and it’s seen before the huddle or when Silas is standing on the sideline before he calls a play. Silas has run consistent sets for Tate, as he did that within the 15-game losing streak. He dialed up an out of bounds action with 33.4 seconds left, so Tate could make a clutch layup towards the rim.

“Long, long, long ago in his rookie year…we definitely have a bond and with those two guys out, we needed some scoring,” Silas said. “He was the guy who was playing the hardest from start to finish and down the stretch we ran that elbow iso for him. And he just went through his defender and finished. And he made some huge plays in the 4th quarter, which is what you need. Yeah, I trust him as much as anybody else, and he has earned that, and he deserves it.”

“That just shows the confidence Coach Silas, and my teammates have in me,” said Tate. “We lost some of our primary guys tonight. And not only me, but everybody also stepped up.”

His usage rating is slowly going up, which is posted at 18.9 percent per NBA stats. In isolation, Tate is averaging 1.00 points per possession, which puts him in the 75th percentile(!) per NBA stats. Tate is seeing more action out of the corner, so it can allow him to get to his left hand on offense. The elbow iso action is a play that Tate has run since high school, college, overseas, and in the NBA now. He mentioned that the set allows him to get comfortable when his number is called.

“That’s not my primary role and I think everyone knows that,” Tate said. “I am very confident [in] what I bring to the table offensively. Not only scoring wise but seeing the floor and being able to make [a] decision in space. And that kind of helps me when they overlook the scouting report.”

“[I've] been running that play since I was [in] high school. At Ohio St. I ran that. Even when I was overseas, Will Weaver, that was a play he put in. To have that called tonight, it felt familiar and it’s one of my strengths. And playing in the mid-post area and getting to my left hand.”

Tate was excellent for the Rockets on both sides of the ball, as he had a 116.9 offensive and 108.5 defensive rating with an 82.5 percent in true shooting versus the Thunder. Hopefully, Tate can be the leading catalyst again, as the Rockets face the Orlando Magic and New Orleans Pelicans, which are winnable games. It should become a six-game winning streak, as John Wall might play if his condition is right.

Up next: The Rockets face the Orlando Magic on Friday night.

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