The Knicks' starting lineup Friday night had some confusion leading up to the game, as Emmanuel Mudiay's shoulder injury left a void at point guard. And head coach David Fizdale wouldn't name his replacement, waiting until starting lineups were announced instead.
Well, it was Frank Ntilikina that got the start, and he had a great opportunity to impress Fizdale and the Knicks. But early foul trouble didn't help his cause.
Ntilikina, who started for the seventh time this season, eventually fouled out and Fizdale knows that foul trouble hurt him getting into any sort of rhythm.
"He had a great defensive start, aggressive,'' Fizdale told The Post's Marc Berman. "The foul trouble got him out of rhythm.''
Ntilikina is known for his defensive prowess, and most of the time, he is playing very aggressive on his opponent. In doing so, fouls usually come his way for reaches or blocking. He knows he needs a little more control, though.
"I have to be smarter to avoid these fouls and know what moment when the refs are going to call it,'' Ntilikina said. "Fouls are going to come by being aggressive, but I have to control it.''
When Ntilikina was forced to the bench early, Trey Burke -- who has been the third point guard in the rotation lately -- did make the best of his opportunity. He led the Knicks in scoring with 25 points on 10-of-19 shooting with five assists as well. Ntilikina, on the other hand, finished with just four points and five assists over 18 minutes.
So does that hurt his chances at getting another start on Sunday when the Heat come to town? With Fizdale like the way he runs the offense, Ntilikina may get a second chance.
"He's an organizer," Fizdale said. "He's very good at getting guys organized and where they're supposed to be."
There is still much improvement Ntilikina needs to make to his offensive game, though, to be the first-round force the Knicks drafted him to be last year. Fizdale believes the key to that is his shooting stroke, something Ntilikina has struggled with since entering the league.
So far this season, the 20-year-old is shooting 29.4 percent from beyond the arc, and 33.8 from the field overall. Once he can make it more consistent, Fizdale sees his offensive game opening up a ton.
"Once Frank gets consistent shooting the ball from 3, you're going to see a whole different game from him," Fizdale said. "Because that opens up his ability to get to the paint."
Fizdale and Ntilikina both know reps and practice are vital to reaching that goal. But, when Ntilikina gets the chance to start for the Knicks, staying out of foul trouble will get those crucial game reps in, too.