Clint Capela doesn’t appear to be afraid to stoke the fires that are currently dormant under the New York Knicks.
With their season on the line, the Knicks have to do what seems like the unthinkable and win three straight games against the Atlanta Hawks if they have any hopes of keeping their season alive.
It all begins on Wednesday night, 7:30 p.m. ET, at Madison Square Garden where nearly 16,000 Knicks fans will attempt to will their team to extend their season just a little while longer.
The first round has gone anything to plan for a team that captured the hearts of a majority of New York City with a barnstorming run toward the end of the regular season to secure the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The reward for it has turned out to be more of a punishment, as the Hawks have controlled most of the series — shutting down the Knicks’ main source of offensive danger in Julius Randle while a depth of shooters on their end, headlined by Trae Young, are proving far too much to handle for one of the regular season’s top defenses.
Still, Randle said earlier this week that he loves his team’s chances of turning the series on its head.
As if there wasn’t enough motivation to keep their season alive, Hawks center Capela — who has dominated the Knicks on the boards all series — may have added even more bulletin board material while dismissing the Knicks’ attempt at physical play when speaking with the media on Tuesday.
“We win the game, we talk s— and we push around. So what you gonna do about it?” he asked. “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.”
Randle, who has discussed in length about the importance of staying level-headed, tried to do just that when discovering those comments.
“Don’t care,” he said. “We’re not focused on that, we’re focused on what we have to do as a team… why would I give a hell at what Clint Capela has to say.”
Capela’s comments even seemed to take veteran point guard Derrick Rose by surprise.
“I’m 32 years old, I never talked s— like that in my life and I’m not going to start now because Clint Capela is talking crazy,” Rose said. “It doesn’t get to me like that… I’m just too old for that s—. I never talk about what I’m going to do… I let my game speak for itself.”
If you’re into historical trends, you won’t find much more comfort. The Knicks have lost eight of their previous 10 Game 5’s dating back to the 1996 Eastern Conference semifinals against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. The Knicks also trailed 3-1 in that series and were eliminated.
In fact, the Knicks have never successfully overcome a 3-1 series deficit in postseason play. They came close in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals, forcing a Game 7, but that game is best known for Patrick Ewing’s game-tying layup attempt at the buzzer that did not fall.