Rockets coach, Mike D’Antoni waxed lyrical about the performance of Angolan/Congolese-Swiss center, Clint Capela as Houston avoided a double home-court whammy on Wednesday, as they routed the Golden State Warriors 127-105 to even their Western Conference Finals series at 1-1.
Capela, who recorded 42 double-doubles in the regular season and ended with a season average of 13.9 points and 10.8 rebounds to finish with a double-double for the first time in his career, was held to 12 points, just 6 rebounds, 3 assists and a game-leading 2 blocked shots in Game 1 as the Warriors ran out 119-106 winners.
However, it was a different Capela that showed up for Game 2: the young African, who shot 6-7 in Game 1, focused his energy at the defensive end, as the Rockets swarmed to disrupt the offensive flow of the Warriors. He ended with a 2-3 field goal total, but tied with James Harden for a game-high 10 rebounds as the Rockets knuckled down.
Kwesé sports asked D’Antoni if the defensive effort was an instruction to the center, or it was his own way of refocusing, to help the team win. The answer showed just how important Capela is to the Rockets:
“Well, Clint gives us the ability to be able to switch”, D’Antoni said, and emphasized his value to Houston. “He’s so important to what we do. He’s a great basketball player. He can guard the perimeter. He can guard the bigs. He can get us vertical space. He runs the floor”, he added, basically summarising the things Capela brought to Game 2.
Then, the former New York Knicks coach expanded his assessment of Capela, detailing his value and contribution to the growth of the Rockets over the past two years;
“We ask a lot from Clint. He’s one of the reasons we were able to make the jump last year and make another jump this year, because of his improvements. He’s improved unbelievably as a player. His mentality, his demeanour, he’ll get better even. He’s invaluable to us. No one should overlook him. He’s a good player”
The coach also explained his game plan going into the series, and outlined why the Rockets are not likely to change the way they are playing. “First of all, you have one of the best offenses probably of all time, at least with Golden State, and they’re one of the best all-time teams. We’re trying to prove we’re up there with them. You’re not going to come in and change the way you play. That’s the way we played all year.
“Sometimes we get bogged down, but usually because we can’t get out in transition, can’t get that force and then the ball seems like all we do is keep it”, he said while trying to explain the change in the Rockets between Games 1 and 2.
“But, again, we are who we are, and we had to be who we are. We just did it better, longer. (in Game 2) Guys believe it, and we’re not going to change anything up. That would be silly on my part to panic. You don’t do that. We’re very comfortable about who we are, and we can beat anybody, anywhere, at any time playing the way we play. Some people might not like it, you know? Hey, sorry. You know, it might not look good to some people. But it’s effective. It’s efficient” he added. But he also had good words about Golden State Coach, Steve Kerr, and tried to outline the similarities in their coaching styles:
“The one good thing about Golden State is that Steve Kerr does a great job. He plays exactly the way that team has to play. He took his talent, figured it out and they are very efficient and one of the best teams ever.
“We as a coaching staff try to do the same thing. You take what you have, you figure out what you can do, what will maximize each one of our players, try to get them career years. We try to maximize what they do. This is the best way that we play, I think, and hey, I could be mistaken, but I obviously believe in it. And we’re going to play that and live with the results”, he added emphatically.
Game 4 is on Monday the 21st of May.