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Source: Rockets’ Capela (thumb) out 4-6 weeks

With two starters already out with injuries, Houston Rockets center Clint Capela is expected to miss four to six weeks with ligament damage to his right thumb, league sources told ESPN.

Capela underwent an MRI in Houston on Monday and may get a second opinion with a hand specialist in the near future, league sources said.

The Rockets – already without All-Star point guard Chris Paul and guard Eric Gordon because of injuries — will struggle to replace Capela’s productivity in the lineup. James Harden‘s historic offensive run had lifted the Rockets to sixth in the Western Conference with a 24-18 record.

Capela was playing outstanding basketball before suffering the injury getting hit in a lob play in Sunday night’s loss to Orlando. Capela is averaging 17.6 points, 12.6 rebounds and nearly two blocks a game. He signed a five-year, $80 million contract extension this summer.

The absence of Capela, who is averaging a career-high 34.2 minutes per game, creates a major depth problem at center. Nene likely replaces Capela in the Houston starting lineup, but the Rockets prefer to limit the 36-year-old to 15 minutes per game and do not play Nene on both ends of back-to-backs.

Rarely used reserves Isaiah Hartenstein and Marquese Chriss are the only other centers on the roster, although forward PJ Tucker plays some center in small lineups.

Coach Mike D’Antoni said over the weekend that he anticipates Gordon (right knee contusion) returning at some point this week and Paul (strained left hamstring) likely rejoining the lineup next week.

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon contributed to this story.

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