If the Knicks needed any added motivation beyond avoiding elimination, Clint Capela provided it Tuesday.
The Hawks’ rim-protecting center basically called the Knicks and Julius Randle dirty, accused them of not playing the right way and labeled their attempts to be physical as unsuccessful.
“They are trying to play tough, push our guys around and talk s–t,” he said over Zoom ahead of Wednesday’s Game 5 at the Garden. “We showed them as soon as they come back here [to Atlanta]. We can push guys around, talk s–t and get the win, too.”
He then began talking directly to the Knicks like he was cutting a WWE promo.
“We can talk s–t as well, so what you gonna do about it? Oh, and we can get a win with it. So what you gonna do about it?” said the 6-foot-10 Capela, who is averaging 9.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in the series. “Oh, Game 4, you’re coming back again, well it’s going to happen again. We win the game, we talk s–t and we push [you] around. … That’s what happened. We can do it, too. We can be physical, but we can win games as well.
“Now we’re coming to your home to win this game again and send you on vacation.”
Capela saved his most biting criticism for Randle, who has struggled in the best-of-seven series as the Knicks have fallen behind 3-1. Late in the Hawks’ Game 4 rout, Randle was assessed a flagrant foul for grabbing Danilo Gallinari and shoving him after the whistle. Randle said it was retaliation for Gallinari hitting Reggie Bullock in the neck on a prior possession.
Randle said it was retaliation for Gallinari hitting Reggie Bullock in the neck on a prior possession.
“I was like, ‘All right, that says it all,’ ” Capela said. “’You don’t have any more solutions but playing that way. You think you’re playing hard doing fouls like that, but that’s not the game. If you can’t play hard the right way, that’s not playing hard. Those flagrant fouls, those are not in-the-game fouls. You’re just trying to look physical, but it’s not working. It’s kind of a last solution.’
“That was a dirty play, retaliation or not. That’s not how you play hard. Maybe if you dunk on him it can be, ‘All right, you got him back.’ But just shoving — we all can shove someone.”
Capela did say he expected a difficult game Wednesday night and predicted it would be even more physical than the previous two games. Capela is certain to hear chants from the Garden crowd now in what could end up being a heated contest — thanks to the Hawks center.