Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela didn’t mince words Tuesday when asked about the physical nature of his team’s first-round matchup against the New York Knicks.
Things got chippy in Game 4 in Atlanta on Sunday, with John Collins needing four stitches in his lip because of an errant elbow from a Julius Randle layup attempt. Randle later gave a forearm shove in retaliation for a perceived elbow in the back that Danilo Gallinari gave to Reggie Bullock.
Capela said those moves and the Knicks’ style of play don’t make them a physical team.
“I don’t know if they’re physical, but they are trying to play physical,” Capela said. “I feel like if they were really physical, I think we’d have more problems than what we have.”
Capela said the Knicks are trying to be physical, but it wasn’t working against the Hawks, saying the Hawks are proving they can be physical as well.
“They are trying to play tough, push our guys around and talk s—,” Capela said. “But we can do that too. We showed them as soon as we came back here that we can do that too. We can push guys around too. We can talk s— 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?
“Oh, Game 4, you’re coming back again, well it’s going to happen again. We win the game, we talk s— and we push around. So what you gonna do about it? 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, who has averaged 9.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in the series, also said that there are two ways of being physical: playing the right way and being dirty.
“It’s two different games,” Capela said. “We play hard because we’re playing the right way and we win games that way. When you’re playing hard because that’s your last solution, I don’t take that as a ‘playing hard’ team.”
When asked about Capela’s comments about toughness and trash talk, Knicks point guard Derrick Rose decided to steer clear of any back-and-forth.
“I’m too old for that,” said Rose, 32, who leads New York with 22.8 points per game in the series.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau also deflected questions Tuesday about Capela’s comments, saying New York needs to focus on saving its season with a victory in Game 5.
“I think the challenge for us is just to stay focused,” Thibodeau said. “That’s just noise. We just need to concentrate on what we need to do and be ready for the first quarter. That’s it.”
Capela criticized Randle for his late-game shove of Gallinari that drew a flagrant-1 foul late in the fourth quarter. As Randle went to the bench, he received high-fives from his teammates as he took his seat.
“I wasn’t trying to hurt him but in that situation, whatever it is, you gotta take a hard foul or whatever, we just had to let them know that we’re not accepting that s—,” Randle said Sunday.
Capela viewed Randle’s shot a little differently.
“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.”
As for the overall intensity, Atlanta coach Nate McMillan has told the Hawks this will be the toughest game of the series coming up on Wednesday as they try to close out the Knicks in Madison Square Garden.
“I think that this team is going to give everything they got, especially at home,” Capela said. “I expect a game that’ll be even more physical than the last few games have been because this could be the last game of their season. I expect a fight out there.”