Capela could be difference when Rockets meet Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY — With all that James Harden does, it’s easy to forget that Houston is not a one-man show on offense. Harden is putting up MVP numbers practically every game, but he’s far from alone in making the offense run smoothly.

When Houston faces Utah on Monday night, the Rockets will bring a full arsenal of weapons for the Jazz to worry about. Clint Capela is one such option who is blossoming on offense for Houston this season.

Capela is playing at peak form for the Rockets. He has racked up 10 double-doubles in his last 14 games. Houston is 20-2 this season when Capela scores 15 or more points.

He leads the league in field goal percentage (.657) and is averaging career highs in points per game (14.5) and rebounds per game (11.0).

“He’s a smart player in the sense that he gets in the right spot at the right time,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said about Capela after Houston’s 120-102 win over Minnesota on Friday. “”He’s got great hands. He’s obviously long as heck and he can finish.”

Capela has been a particularly valuable asset on the boards. He has helped Houston rank in the top 10 in the league in defensive rebounding.

For a team that leads the NBA in scoring, it makes them that much tougher to deal with for 48 minutes.

The Rockets have averaged a plus-7 rebound margin in two games since the All-Star break.

“Once we get on rebounds, we’re off to the races,” Harden said Friday. “If we don’t, it makes it harder for our offense and then our defense.”

No one needs to tell the Jazz how much trouble the Rockets can cause on both ends of the court. Houston, which has won 12 straight games after beating Denver 119-114 on Monday, has already beaten Utah three times this season.

Houston has averaged 123.0 points in those games. Of course, the Jazz (31-29) might offer a stiffer challenge this time around after winning 12 of their last 13 games.

Utah has held 10 of its last 13 opponents below 100 points, including the team’s most recent win, a 97-90 victory over Dallas on Saturday.

The Jazz struggled offensively, shooting just 40 percent from the field. But they made up for it by holding the Mavericks to one field goal in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter.

It offered a step forward from a 100-81 loss to Portland a day earlier, where Utah couldn’t get enough stops to combat a lifeless offense.

The Jazz are playing hard and, as a result, are gaining ground in the Western Conference, where they trail the Nuggets by only two games.

“The good thing is we competed hard in both games,” center Rudy Gobert said. “That’s a good sign. As long as we keep competing, the shots are going to fall. The turnovers are going to go down. And the defense was pretty good tonight.”

If guard Ricky Rubio can bounce back to the level he was playing before his recent hip injury, it could help the Jazz take another step forward against the Rockets.

Rubio returned to the lineup against the Blazers after missing three games. He has struggled to find his shot again since his return, shooting just 26.7 percent from the field and averaging 5.5 points in the last two games.