Hawks’ big man Capela backs up big talk, sends Knicks packing

The Hawks Clint Capela meets New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett at the rim Wednesday. (Wendell Cruz/Pool Photo via AP)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
The Hawks Clint Capela meets New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett at the rim Wednesday. (Wendell Cruz/Pool Photo via AP)

Credit: AP

As an NBA vacation planner, the Hawks’ Clint Capela is a regular one-man Sandals. An all-inclusive source for any opponent looking for some time away from the pressures of playoff basketball.

Among other gems, Capela said in advance of Wednesday’s Game 5 playoff game in New York that it was time to send the Knicks on vacation. And then he helped punch their ticket, delivering another big man’s broad-shouldered stat line – 14 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks, the best plus-minus of the night (plus-21) and a generous plenty of changed shots and changed minds at the rim – in the Hawks’ clinching 103-89 victory.

Capela backed it all up Wednesday.

Backed up the off-day criticism of the Knicks’ ineffective attempts at bully-ball: “I feel like if they were really physical, I think we’d have more problems than what we have.”

Backed up the in-your-face challenge: “We can push guys around, too. We can talk (expletive) 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?”

Backed up the biggest talk of all: “Now we’re coming to your home to win this game again and send you on vacation.”

Hawks coach Nate McMillan clearly is not a fan of prosecuting games in the media. As he said Wednesday night, “I didn’t feel New York needed that to be motivated to play. But it was said.”

And once it was said, and then aired through the oversized megaphone of the New York media, McMillan was forced to look back on Capela’s efficient play this night and say, “I thought our guys stepped up and had his back. I thought Clint played a game to back up some of the things he said.”

More talk on Capela’s talk, this voice also from the Hawks’ frontcourt, John Collins: “I loved it. Obviously big talk on his end to put the team on the line in a sense. We had his back. We knew he was going to come out and give it 100%. I had no issues with it. I just wanted to do what he said – send them on vacation, send them home. And we did that.”

Capela has been the foundation of the Hawks’ defense all season. The defender of last resort, he rights a lot of wrongs with that telescoping reach of his. And, when describing his job, he makes it sound easy.

“Erasing mistakes at the rim. Set pick-and-roll. Finish hard at the rim. Give extra possessions to my team. Be vocal on the defensive end. Make sure to let everybody know I’m the backbone of the rim. And do it over and over again with efficiency. Simple as that.”

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

And so it was Wednesday. Capela had four points – on an alley-oop dunk and a baby hook – and a block in the game’s first 98 seconds. Tone set. He was a steadying factor in the paint as the Hawks misfired from long range, going just 3-of-17 from 3 in the first half before somewhat getting their eye back. Capela meanwhile took only seven shots and made six of them. He even made both his free throws. And rebounded anything he could touch.

“He’s the anchor for us,” McMillan said. “Defensively he’s been the guy all season long who has been cleaning up our mistakes, our breakdowns on the perimeter. He did a really good job of really shadowing (Julius) Randle and their ballhandlers attacking the basket.

“And then he had to rebound the ball. We want our guys to come in and help on the boards. Clint has done a really solid job of rebounding. We knew that was big against this team that’s really physical in the paint. He held his ground against (Nerlens) Noel and (Taj) Gibson, that was the difference in the game. We needed to win the hustle game.”

As for the check his mouth wrote before the game, Capela said he drafted it only because the Hawks were good for it. He wouldn’t have said it if he hadn’t thought his was the better team playing the better brand of ball.

“Yeah, I meant it,” Capela said postgame. “I knew I would not be wrong about it. We showed the last few games we have that kind of character, that type of team. I believed we were capable of coming here and getting the win. We did it.

He continued, “I was just thinking about how they were trying to push around our guys. I was just thinking – and I’m still thinking – this is not how you win games. For a fact, we’ve been winning games, and we’ve been playing pretty good basketball.”

And then, like any good vacation planner, Capela stepped back and left to the now-idle Knicks the ultimate decision of where to spend their sudden down time.

“They can go wherever they want,” he said.

“Out of our way, that’s all I’m asking for.”

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