After leaving Sunday night’s Game 4 with what was referred to as a “groin injury”, it was announced today that Houston Rockets’ backup center Nene will miss the remainder of the playoffs due to a torn left adductor.
The Rockets just announced that Nene is lost for the rest of the postseason with a left adductor tear …
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) May 8, 2017
This news comes just four days after it was announced that Spurs starting point guard Tony Parker would miss the remainder of the postseason with a ruptured quad, an injury he suffered during the third quarter of Game 2.
The Spurs just announced that Tony Parker is out for the rest of the season with a ruptured left quadriceps tendon
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) May 4, 2017
With the first four games of this series producing two season-ending injuries to crucial pieces of each team, we can safely say the remainder of this series will likely be decided on which team can adjust better through the injuries.
For the Spurs, they lose arguably their second most important player in Parker, who was averaging 14.5 points per game in his two games against the Rockets, and 15.9 PPG through the playoffs. He is the engine that gets the Spurs going, as he’s been for more than a decade. His penetration, craftiness and midrange shooting was crucial to the Spurs offense through the eight playoff games he’d played in. While rookie Dejounte Murray has taken over the starting job in Parker’s absence, the injury will require Kawhi Leonard to create more plays for himself and his teammates, which is something he’s already started to do. He’s currently averaging a career-high 4.8 assists per game in the playoffs, highlighted by a career-high 8 assists in Game 2, and 7 the following game (both wins). No Parker will likely also mean a more involved and engaged Lamarcus Aldridge, who has stepped it up recently after an inexcusable 4 point performance in Game 1 on 2-7 shooting.
As for the Rockets, Nene’s injury hurts greatly because he had been arguably the best/most consistent big man for the team in the playoffs. While he was only averaging 5.5 points per game in the Spurs series, he averaged 13.6 PPG in the Thunder series and 10.0 PPG overall in the playoffs off the bench. Other than Clint Capela, Nene was the only other center the Rockets really relied on, so losing him is a huge loss against a team that has considerably more size. If the second half of Game 4 was any indication, Coach Mike D’Antoni may resort to using Ryan Anderson more at the center position when Capela takes a breather. This means the Rockets will likely have more lineups on the floor where all five players are a threat from deep. However, on the other end of the floor, Anderson may struggle a bit guarding the likes of the bigger Aldridge and Pau Gasol for extended stretches.
All in all, in a series where the Spurs size (and defense) was their advantage and the Rockets shooting (and more shooting) was their advantage, the injuries to Nene and Tony Parker will force both teams to put an even bigger emphasis on their strengths. With both teams tied at two games apiece and each game so far being decided by 10+ points, the now best-of-three series will come down to who can best take advantage of the holes left due to the season-ending injuries we’ve seen. With a trip to the Conference Finals on the line, expect tighter games and even greater play from MVP candidates Leonard and James Harden.