The Houston Rockets have lost yet another crucial piece to injury for the rest of the year, according to Sam Amick of USA Today.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, forward Donatas Motiejunas is out for the season with a back injury.
Motiejunas was enjoying a career-year with the Rockets, averaging career-highs of 12 points and nearly 6 rebounds per game with a 14.4 PER. The third-year forward from Lithuania emerged as a legitimate inside-outside scoring threat this season in the absence of Dwight Howard. He shot 57% on shots less than eight feet from the basket, while his three-point percentage skyrocketed to nearly 37%, a drastic improvement over his 25% clip last year. The Rockets had invested a lot of time into Motiejunas’ development, and it appeared as if that investment was starting to pay dividends this season.
According to Marc Stein, this isn’t a re-injury, just a failure to recover.
Either way, no matter the cause, it still leaves the Rockets without one of their main rotation players. The Rockets were already entering the playoffs without Patrick Beverley, who was lost for the season with a wrist injury, and while they have more depth up front than they do on the perimeter, it still greatly impacts their championship chances. Dwight Howard’s back on the court, but he’s not 100%, and likely won’t be for the rest of the season. Motiejunas would have provided a much-needed second option if Howard struggled with conditioning, fouls, or injury. Now, the Rockets will have to lean more on Josh Smith, Terrence Jones and Joey Dorsey to carry the load up front.
The Rockets currently hold the second seed in the West, but they’re just one game up on the third-seed Memphis Grizzlies. If the Rockets lose tonight’s pivotal game against the San Antonio Spurs, they could drop down the standings and find themselves playing the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs, something every team wants to avoid.