Julius Randle defiantly said the Knicks “don’t care” that Clint Capela hoped to send them “on vacation” Wednesday night in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series.
The Hawks similarly didn’t seem to mind if their rebounding machine’s bravado provided the Knicks with any added bulletin-board or social-media motivation while facing elimination.
“We’re always going to have our guys’ backs, regardless of whatever is said. He‘s a competitor, just like anybody else,” backup forward Solomon Hill said Wednesday morning about Capela. “His comments, it’s the same thing as we look at how [the Knicks] want to play the game. You get competitive in this game, you get competitive in a series. That’s part of the game, it’s a part of the nature.
“Clint was just talking basketball, honestly,” Hill continued. “And he has belief. We don’t tell our fans to believe if we don’t believe in ourselves. So we just want to go out there and have his back and try to take care of business. As much as we talk about ‘one game at a time,’ we look at this as our opportunity to put this away. We want to go out there from start to finish and execute and try to get it done.”
Capela also had said Tuesday that the Knicks’ plan to play physically to try to intimidate the Hawks was “not working,” but Knicks center Taj Gibson didn’t envision his team deviating from the formula that had worked throughout its 41-31 regular season.
“We’ve been playing the same way all year. We don’t really need any fuel or energy,” Gibson said Wednesday morning. “It’s part of the game. Just looking forward to playing. It’s part of the game and we just got to enjoy it. It’s the best part of the year. Two teams going at it, battling, got to keep going for it.”
Hill also stressed the Hawks had to “accept the atmosphere” inside a ratcheted-up Madison Square Garden. Atlanta grabbed the series opener on a last-second drive by star point guard Trae Young, who heard profane chants from the Knicks’ home crowd. Young also was spat on by a fan during the Knicks’ comeback win in Game 2.
“For a lot of guys on our team, this is probably going to be one of the most exciting crowds that you ever play the game of basketball in front of,” said the 30-year-old Hill, an eight-year NBA veteran. “I think the collection of guys we have on this team have played in environments like that, it should be something that their kind of used to, especially in that college atmosphere. You enjoy it. You gotta love it. There’s nothing like it.
“It’s the moment as a kid that you dream about. You don’t think about playing in front of a half-empty crowd, or with a couple people there. You want the stands to be filled to the brim. You want the energy and excitement going crazy. That’s going to be the feeling, as it should, and as it always is for playoff basketball in New York.”