The New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks have played one of the most intense series in the first round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs. The series began with a charged atmosphere inside Madison Square Garden as Knicks fans greeted Hawks star Trae Young with chants that ranged from explicit to creative. Young has responded with his own trash talk while carrying his team to a 3-1 series lead that has put the Knicks on the brink of elimination heading into Wednesday’s Game 5.
Atlanta center Clint Capela poured some more fuel on the fire during his press availability on Tuesday ahead of Game 5. When asked about New York’s physical play in the series, Capela said “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.”
Here’s the full quote from Capela:
"[The Knicks] trying to play tough, push our guys around and talk s---, but we can do that too... we can push guys around too, we can talk s--- as well, so what you gonna do about it? And we can get a win with it, so what you gonna do about it?" - Clint Capela pic.twitter.com/I7OZi5uXcz— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) June 1, 2021
Here are Capela’s comments, transcribed:
I asked Clint Capela about the Knicks' physical play.— Sarah K. Spencer (@sarah_k_spence) June 1, 2021
“... We showed them as soon as they came back here that we can push guys around, too. We can talk shit as well. So whatcha gonna do about it? And we can get a win with it."
Here's our exchange: pic.twitter.com/C1ccPSckkD
Capela was also asked about a flagrant foul called on Knicks star Julius Randle at the end of Game 4 with the game already out of reach for New York. Capela called it a dirty play, and said “That’s not how you play hard.”
Clint Capela takes issue with Julius Randle's flagrant foul on Danilo Gallinari in Game 4:— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) June 1, 2021
"Of course that was a dirty play, retaliation or not. That's now how you play hard... we all can shove someone." pic.twitter.com/uA2eAao7WX
Here’s video of the play. Randle said this play was in retaliation to Gallinari elbowing Knicks wing Reggie Bullock earlier in the game.
Julius Randle says his flagrant was response to Gallinari elbowing Bullock earlier.— Mike Vorkunov (@MikeVorkunov) May 30, 2021
"Gallinari had a dirty play...I can’t let that happen. I wasn’t trying to hurt him but in this situation...you take a hard foul or whatever, just to let them know we’re not accepting their shit." pic.twitter.com/wnHAHmsX6V
Hey Julius Randle, what do you think of Capela’s tough talk?
Julius Randle on Clint Capela:— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) June 1, 2021
“I don’t care.”
Capela has had a tremendous season for the Hawks in his first full year with the team, and has been one of the biggest reasons for the franchise’s turnaround. The 26-year-old center has put himself in position to be named to the NBA All-Defensive team this season by anchoring Atlanta’s defense in the paint and providing the type of rim protection the Hawks badly lacked last year. Capela is only averaging nine points per game during the first four games of the series against the Knicks, but he’s left a notable impact on the glass and the defensive end.
The threat of Young’s lobs to Capela have been the foundation of the Atlanta offense all season.
Capela has even broken out the Dikembe Mutombo finger wave during this series as an ode to the former Hawks star. Despite the fact that few people would give either the Hawks or the Knicks a chance to even make the conference finals, this series has been great because both teams have been starved for recent playoff success and truly believe they could win the matchup. So far, it’s been the Hawks who are imposing their will.
The intensity of the series has gotten ugly at times. A Knicks fan spit at Trae Young, which is disgusting and unacceptable. The fan was banned from Madison Square Garden. Knicks fans have also chanted “f*** Trae Young” and then “Trae Young is balding” throughout the series. Young has been sensational from the start, providing a definitive answer to critics who said his game couldn’t stand up to the pressure of the postseason.
For as good as the Hawks have been in this series, it won’t be easy to close it out in New York against a Knicks team fighting for its season and another hostile crowd. Capela just gave the Knicks more bulletin board material. This series will be must-see until the very end.