The Rockets didn’t want to rest their key players for Tuesday’s game against the Lakers. Some teams don’t want to get rusty before the playoffs, but it comes with risk. The Rockets found that out the hard way.
Luc Mbah a Moute, arguably Houston’s best defender, will reportedly miss the first round of the playoffs with a dislocated shoulder. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports that there is no set timetable for his return.
The injury occurred midway through the second quarter when Mbah a Moute drove to the basket for a one-handed slam. He held his shoulder in pain immediately after the dunk and was taken to the locker room for further examinations. Mbah a Moute did not return to the game.
When Mbah a Moute is on the floor, the Rockets can switch everything. Without him on the floor, that job becomes a little harder because the team does not have a guy that mirrors Mbah a Moute’s length with his quickness quite like he does. Ariza is the closest thing to him but Mbah a Moute was strongest when coming off the bench for Ariza.
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Losing Mbah a Moute won’t sink the Rockets, but the versatile forward provided more value than his stats suggest. Head coach Mike D’Antoni will have to get a bit more creative with his lineups this postseason with both Mbah a Moute and Ryan Anderson dealing with injuries.
Mbah a Moute is a key defender for the Rockets, who allow 101.2 points per 100 possessions with him on the court compared to 105.5 with him off. The Rockets have the sixth-best defense in the league this season, but that number dropped to 24th in the 15 games he missed — a stretch during which the Rockets went 8-7.
“With Luc, it’s tough, but we can’t take it back now,” Rockets point guard Chris Paul said after the game. “We’ve just got to pick it up by committee. … Luc has been unbelievably important. Just his spirit, the way he plays, he defends, rebounds, runs, all that stuff.”