ATLANTA — The Hawks just obtained Clint Capela in a trade-deadline deal. While he is still injured, “The Next Capela” dominated the court at State Farm Arena Sunday despite the Knicks’ 140-135 double-overtime heartbreaker to the Hawks.
Knicks center Mitchell Robinson was sensational — a massive force at the rim on both ends, notching 15 points with 11 rebounds, three blocks and three steals.
When Robinson was drafted in the second round in 2018, former Knicks coach David Fizdale said Robinson had Capela potential. It looks like he might have more than that and it’s a shame he was left out of the Rising Stars All-Star Game for rookies and sophomores.
“I don’t really watch him,’’ Robinson said of Capela. “We do the same thing. He’s all right, but I think I’m better on defense.’’
Robinson owed his spectacular showing to his mentor Taj Gibson, who told him before the two-game road trip he needed to be more fiery.
“Taj talked to me to play with a little more force,’’ Robinson said. “I kind of did that in Detroit and I brought it down to Atlanta with me. I played even harder tonight even with the back-to-back being tired. I had to push through.’’
This wasn’t even about Robinson’s alley-oops. Any pass thrown to him near the basket, he muscled in for a dunk.
“He was great,’’ Julius Randle said. “He was great. Doing what Mitchell does. That’s what makes him special, defending the rim, getting offensive rebounds, running the floor, creating extra possessions. He was amazing.”
One of his best plays was nullified controversially in the fourth quarter when he ripped the ball from D’Andre Hunter underneath and dunked it. (Officials ruled a timeout was called from the bench before Robinson stole it.)
“How can they call a timeout?’’ Robinson said. “It was crazy. The ball was already in my hands. It was already through the net.”
After the game, ex-Knick shot-blocker extraordinaire Dikembe Mutombo walked by the locker room and said, “There’s no shot-blockers in the league anymore.’’ When a reporter asked Robinson about Mutombo, he said, “Yeah, he’s good.’’
“[Robinson] was outstanding,’’ Knicks interim coach Mike Miller said. “His offensive numbers look good but his defense, the way he impacted the game, what he did along that backline was terrific.’’