The Houston Rockets announced on Monday morning that starting center Nene will miss the rest of the playoffs due to a left adductor (groin) tear suffered in Game 4 against the Spurs. The injury was initially diagnosed as a left groin pull, but tests revealed that the injury was more severe than originally thought and that he had torn the muscle.
In the team statement, the Rockets said they were still determining what course of medical action to take for the injury and would provide an update later. The loss is a big one for the Rockets. Despite winning Game 4 handily, the loss of Nene significantly cuts into their depth at the center position. For the season, Nene averaged 10 points and 4.7 rebounds per game for the Rockets. The biggest impact of Nene’s absence won’t be on the offense, where Houston can thrive without a post presence, but on the defensive end.
In the playoffs, the Rockets have a 97.4 defensive rating in the 161 minutes that Nene has been on the floor. That defensive rating jumps to a 111.1 when he’s off the court (271 minutes). In games like Game 4, when the Rockets offense gets unfathomably hot and runs away to a huge lead, that isn’t impacted as much. However, if they find themselves in close games as their playoff run continues, his absence on defense could loom large.
Houston will now have to put more of the load on Clint Capela, who played 25 minutes in Game 4, as well as going to their small lineup more, which proved effective on Sunday night. The Rockets are tied 2-2 with the Spurs in their Western Conference Semifinal series after the Game 4 125-104 win in Houston, but will have to complete the series and, if they survive and advance, face the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals without one of their key big men.