After barely playing in Game 4 against the Spurs, Rockets center Nene is out for the rest of the postseason. 

Nene left Sunday night’s game after playing 103 seconds, and he exited with an apparent groin injury. On Monday, the organization announced that the 34-year-old suffered a left adductor tear. Believe it or not, this is a bad blow for Houston. Nene wasn’t getting much time, but the majority of his minutes were hugely beneficial. Against San Antonio, Nene averaged 5.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in 12.8 minutes of action.

He came out of nowhere in the first round against Oklahoma City when he dropped 28 points on 12-of-12 shooting and 10 rebounds in Game 4, and he followed that up 14 points and seven boards in the series clincher. When Nene played well, the Rockets didn’t have to worry about the defensive end of the floor. In the first matchup with the Spurs, the Brazilian had a defensive rating of 92 points per 100 possessions, and that’s been a running theme this postseason.

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For the playoffs a whole, his defensive rating is 106, and his offensive rating is an incredible 127. Over the summer, Nene worked to get into the best shape of his life, and it’s showing. He’s mobile on either end and has no issues banging bodies down low. The only gripe with him is foul trouble, but that’s not a problem because Mike D’Antoni doesn’t need him to play extended minutes. Nene hassles David Lee, LaMarcus Aldridge and the Spurs other bigs when he’s on the floor, and that’s all the Rockets need him to do on that end. According to Basketball Reference, there’s a 14.6-point swing with Nene’s on/off splits — 114.0 defensive rating when he’s off, 99.4 with him on.

Houston’s offense doesn’t change much. Clint Capela is a better option because of his athleticism, but Nene can still run the floor and finish if he leaks out behind the defense. However, because the Spurs are so elite on that end, it’s hard for him to get easy looks around the basket. Now and again he’ll get a putback or back tap an offensive board, but that’s about it; even when he had that explosion in Oklahoma City not many points were scored from traditional post-ups.

While Nene’s absence doesn’t signal the end of the world, it does throw a wrench in the Rockets game plan going forward.

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