Harden helping Rockets move on without Capela
Before Houston Rockets guard James Harden reached another level of extraordinary achievement on Monday, the mood around Toyota Center was less jovial following the somber news on Clint Capela.
Capela will be on the sidelines for Wednesday's game against the visiting Brooklyn Nets after the Rockets discovered Capela could be sidelined up to six weeks with a right thumb injury sustained in a loss to the Orlando Magic on Sunday.
Capela has performed at an All-Star level this season, with averages of 17.6 points and 12.6 rebounds while serving as an interior balance to the magic Harden delivers from the perimeter on a game-by-game basis.
With Capela joining Chris Paul (hamstring) and Eric Gordon (knee) on the injured list, the Rockets are even more compromised. Figuring out how they will survive without their ascendant center is a challenge.
"Thirty-three minutes of All-Star-level basketball -- you can't make that up," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "Other guys are going to have to step up and play and play well, and we'll have to figure out different ways. And then we've got to get Eric back, that'll help. (Getting) Chris back will help as soon as we can. But in the meantime, you're not going to replace Clint. We're going to try to do as well as we can to play around it (his absence). I still think we've got enough to hang in there until he gets back."
Harden, who has averaged 41.9 points, 9.2 assists and 7.5 rebounds, during the 12 games without Paul, provided another reminder of his dominance on Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies, pouring in a season-high 57 points in a 112-94 win. One day after D'Antoni insisted that Harden shouldn't be required to do superhuman things nightly, Harden upped the ante and set a tone for what may come Wednesday when Houston (25-18) faces the Nets.
"I don't know if it was an emotional lift," Harden said of his performance. "I know we had to win the game."
The Nets (22-23) continued to showcase growth by fending off the Boston Celtics in the fourth quarter of their 109-102 victory at Barclays Center on Monday. Brooklyn again moved within a game of .500, doing so for the third time since Jan. 6. The Nets were last at .500 on Nov. 9.
Guard D'Angelo Russell continues to serve as a linchpin for the injury-ravaged Nets. He scored 18 of his 34 points in the third quarter to help Brooklyn end a 10-game losing skid to the Celtics. The Nets were without guards Shabazz Napier and Allen Crabbe, plus forwards Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Jared Dudley yet persevered thanks in large part to Russell, who has scored 20-plus points in seven of eight games while averaging seven assists over that span.
"There's no fear," Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said of Russell. "He believes in himself. He's got tremendous, tremendous confidence. He's playing really well right now. I think with guys out, we've given him a little more of a green light. We need him to be aggressive. He and I have talked about it, and he was aggressive (Monday). We need him to keep doing that."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 15, 2019