With their backs to the walls, the Knicks were already set to take over Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night for Game 5 of the First Round Playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks with all they’ve got.
But if Tom Thibodeau needed a little inspiration for his struggling team, Atlanta Hawks center Clint Capela was happy to provide it – a farewell shot delivered before what the Hawks hope will be the final knockout. While the Hawks expect to get the Knicks ‘best effort, Capela said the Knicks’ physical play hasn’t been enough so far – and it won’t be now.
“They’re trying to play hard, to push our guys around, to talk…” Capela said. “But we can do that too. We show them as soon as we get back here. We can also push guys, we can also talk, so what are you going to do about it? And we can get a win with So qu are you going to do about it?
“Oh, Game 4, are you coming back?” Well, it’s going to happen again. Win the game. We’ve been talking and pushing you, so what are you going to do about it? That’s what happened. We can do it, too. We can be physical, but we can also win games. Now we come to your home to win this game again, to send you on vacation. “
The Knicks refused to bite into a war of words, with Julius Randle answering any questions about Capela’s word with “I don’t care” and Derrick Rose, who has been through many post-season wars, simply answering : “I’m 32 years old. I’ve never spoken like that in my life and I’m not going to start now because Clint Capela has started talking crazy. It doesn’t happen to us like that … We tell me old for that. “
But while Capela is sure the Hawks have responded that way and that the Knicks’ tenacity displayed throughout the season is not an issue, RJ Barrett noted, “We’ll see tomorrow.”
The game was physical throughout the series, but by the end of Game 4 in Atlanta, with the outcome no longer in doubt, spirits were set on fire. The Knicks believed Danilo Gallinari delivered a cheap shot to Reggie Bullock, coming in behind him with a blow to the back. Bullock attempted to run for the Atlanta bench as the teams headed for a timeout and when play resumed Randle gave Gallinari a forearm shiver.
“As the leader of my team, I can’t let this happen,” Randle said after the game. “I wasn’t trying to hurt her. You find yourself in a situation where no matter what, is doing a serious fault and just to let them know that we don’t accept this. [expletive] here.”
But Capela said the Hawks weren’t impressed.
“There are two ways to be physical,” Capela said. “There is when you keep playing the right way. There is physical when you try to play dirty. They are two different games. We play hard because we play the right way and win games that way. .
“[The Randle flagrant foul] says it all. You have no solution other than to play this way. You think you are playing hard by making mistakes like that. This is not the game. If you cannot play hard the right way, it is not play hard. Gross fouls aren’t fouls in the game. So you’re just trying to look physical but it doesn’t work. It’s kind of the last solution. “
Thibodeau, raised on a coaching staff where Jeff Van Gundy would relish such motivating fodder, would not play the game for the media part at least. But he had little doubt that his team would come to play on Wednesday.
“I think it’s all about perseverance, determination, fighting,” said Thibodeau. “This is playoff basketball. There are ups, there are downs. You have to go through it all. And whatever your circumstances, you have to have the ability to rise above those circumstances. . So this team has been doing it all year round. Lock in, focus on what needs to be done. “
“I just think that’s who we are as a team,” Randle added. “We’ve been counted all year. The odds have been against us, according to the pundits or whoever you want to call it all year. And that’s where we are at. Obviously we don’t come out without a fight and we don’t even care. We have the ultimate confidence and belief in who we are as a team, that we can do it. are at ease, in uncomfortable situations. “