Rockets report Capela cleans up the boards

December 26, 2018 GMT

Rockets center Clint Capela, after days of reminding himself to hit the boards, did something no Rockets player has in more than 20 years. With 23 rebounds in back-to-back games, he not only set a franchise record for a Christmas Day game, he is the first Rockets player since Charles Barkley in November 1996 to get 20 rebounds or more in consecutive games.

“I think it’s a mindset,” Capela said. “My body’s been feeling good. I feel like before the game I am in the weight room, … doing some extra stuff so my body will feel better. I had that extra energy. I want to keep it that way.

“We talked about that, it is a street fight in rebounding. I knew from the last time we played them, and every time we played this team, it’s all about rebounding. They get a lot of offensive rebounds so I knew that tonight, I had to make a statement as a center on this team … to make sure we are going to win the rebound battle.”

The Rockets had declared that defensive rebounding would be the key to the game, reminding one another along with the recent history when they rebound well and poorly, for days. It might have been an even greater factor than they imagined.

The Rockets allowed Oklahoma City, the No. 1 offensive rebounding team in the NBA, nine second-chance points. That was in part because of Oklahoma City’s inability to finish in those situations. The Thunder got 18 offensive rebounds, one more than the Rockets, but were just 3-of-14 on second shots.

With the Thunder held to nine, the Rockets have given up an average of 10.9 second-chance points in their 18 wins. They have allowed 17.1 in losses.

“Just watching film, knowing that it (takes) a sense of urgency,” guard Gerald Green said of the recent success on the boards. “I think we’re one of the last teams to get defensive rebounds, and I think we’re a little ashamed of that, so I think every day that’s what we’re working on … making sure we do a good job of boxing out and going after the glass.”

An early dispute for newcomer

On the second day with Austin Rivers in the Rockets’ locker room, a dispute about the shared past with a new teammate erupted. The Rockets got over it, the way much older athletes do when trading stories of glory days long before.

Rivers and Michael Carter-Williams played against one another in their AAU years. On that much they agree. Who won was disputed.

“I know we won, BABC won,” Carter-Williams said. “We beat Austin in the Peach Jam. He might not remember because he doesn’t remember taking many losses. I remember we won for sure, because we went to the Final Four. I think we both played pretty well. I can’t remember.”

Rivers remembered how Carter-Williams played better than Carter-Williams did. He did not remember other parts of the game quite the same way.

“They did not win,” Rivers said. “They did not beat us.”

“Oh my goodness,” Carter-Williams exclaimed, hearing Rivers’ recollection. “I knew he was going to lie. I knew it.”

“You don’t remember the name of my team?” Rivers came back when Williams could not name E1T1. “Get out of here, bro. You know we had the best team that year.”

“The only team we lost to was Ohio Red,” Carter-Williams said. “That’s the only team that beat us. I didn’t play you after B-Knight left.”

Rivers, however, did recall details. He cited the play of Thunder center Nerlens Noel. And he remembered being impressed with the play of his new, and then far-less heralded, teammate.

“Nerlens blocked everything,” Rivers said. “Nerlens was a freak. I didn’t know who Mike was, man. He did get off, though. He had a cool 30. I do remember that. He was busting us. I was like, ‘Who is this dude?’ ”

Brandon Knight, who was one of the nation’s most celebrated recruits the previous season, shared a backcourt with Carter-Williams, but was already gone by the time they played against Rivers’ team.

“The way our team was formed, me and Brandon just shot every time,” Carter-Williams said. “That worked out well. Brandon was incredible, the No. 1 player.

“It happens a lot. Different guys you played with or against in high school. Even tonight (with the Rockets facing the Thunder), I played with Nerlens in high school, and in AAU, he was on my team. In college, I played with Jerami Grant.”

Jonathan Feigen