Clint Capela completes Houston Rockets’ cornerstone trio

After seeing spot duty in place of an injured Howard during his rookie season, Capela continued making his presence felt around the rim on both ends, a trait that always seems to work well for a big man in Mike D’Antoni’s offense.

“That’s why I’m still coming up and with energy and run hard, set screens and finish at the rim,” Capela said of his humble beginnings and evolution with the Rockets. “I’ve been doing it consistently and doing it well, which is why I’ve got my opportunity more and more. Now I’m starting, I’m trying to do it consistently every night at a high level. It’s been going well.”

If he can dial up a few more performances like he did in Game 1 against Towns and the Timberwolves, his breakout campaign could last deep into this postseason, perhaps into June.

“Clint is big right now,” Rockets reserve swingman Gerald Green said. “I mean, he’s our anchor. Defensively, that’s what makes him so special, not what he can do offensively, what he can do defensively to change the game for us. We need him to play like he did (in Game 1) for the rest of the games.”

Wednesday’s Game 2 at Toyota Center is a good place to start for Capela, who is set for a substantial raise on his $1.2-million salary this summer as a restricted free agent.

“He was sitting at the kid’s table at the wedding for a long time,” D’Antoni said. “Now he’s giving toasts and stuff like that. He’s up with the guys now and they have confidence in him and he’s matured a lot. He’s terrific. He’s really, really good. He’s definitely undervalued. He won’t be this summer when he gets paid. But right now he is. People kind of sleep on him a bit, but he’s one of the better centers in the league.”

Sekou Smith is a veteran NBA reporter and NBA TV analyst. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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