The Knicks have done a decent job of keeping Clint Capela from dominating the glass in splitting the first two games of their playoff series against the Hawks, and that might be the biggest compliment to the NBA’s regular-season rebounding king.
Capela still grabbed 25 rebounds – five on the offensive boards – in the two games in New York, but he scored just 13 points after averaging 15.2 points and a league-best 14.3 rebounds during the regular season.
The Knicks’ interior players have appeared to prefer to allow point guard Trae Young and others to take floaters in the paint while daring the Hawks’ outside shooters to fire away on kick-out passes, rather than leave Capela unmanned beneath the basket.
“Yeah, it is something different. I know they’re keeping me in, to let our shooters get the open shots uncontested,” Capela noted before Friday’s Game 3 in Atlanta. “It’s OK, I trust and we trust in our shooters, and I’ll just keep doing what I do to put pressure on the paint and make [us] kick the ball to our shooters.
“I’m sure we’re going to be able to make those shots, so you have to stick with it.”
Young went 4-for-7 from 3-point range in netting at least 30 points for a second straight game in Sunday’s loss, but Bogdan Bogdanovic and Danilo Gallinari combined to miss 18 of 22 attempts from beyond the arc.
Defensively, the Hawks also held Julius Randle to just 28.2 percent shooting (11-for-39) overall — and 15 points in each of the first two games — although the All-Star forward did heat up with 13 points in the second half of the Knicks’ Game 2 comeback. Randle had averaged 37 points per game in three victories during New York’s sweep of the regular-season series.
“The regular season and postseason are two different things. Right now, it’s all about them. So our focus is definitely different,” said Capela, who registered seven blocked shots in the first two games. “Just following our defensive scheme. For me, it’s being vocal defensively, by telling our guys what to do and when to do it.
“I think that we really committed to it in both games. We just have to stay with it and stick with what we’re doing.”
The Swiss-born center is expecting an improved shooting night for his team with the series shifting to a packed State Farm Arena for Game 3 after experiencing the vocal and profanity-laced MSG denizens earlier this week.
“Really excited, hoping for maybe nothing less than what happened at Madison Square Garden,” Capela said. “I really hope that we’re going to have the support of the city that it’s crowded, raucous, also.
“It’s going to be our first game at home with a crowd so we really expect it to be crazy. We definitely felt it when we were in New York, we saw the crowd and the love that they were showing to their team. I hope that it’s going to be the same for us.”
Still, Capela joined several teammates, Hawks coach Nate McMillan — and Randle — in speaking out against the incident in which a Knicks fan spit on Young during Game 2.
“I think that was disrespectful, the spitting, obviously,” Capela said. “This is crazy. They shouldn’t get away with this. As a player we should be respected. We come here to play basketball, not to get spit on. This is the most disrespectful thing that you could do to a player.
“This should never happen again, like, never again.”