Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
DALLAS - Kristaps Porzingis' first game against the Knicks turned into a coming out party for Frank Ntilikina.
The 21-year-old had 14 points, six rebounds, four assists, four steals and three blocks in New York's win over Dallas.
"This was his best game since he's been in the league," David Fizdale said after the win. "Just what he's been doing is getting better and better. Every game he becomes more confident. I'm really happy for the kid."
Ntilikina defended Luka Doncic for much of his 37 minutes against Dallas and knocked down four of his five 3-point attempts.
"He's a great defender. He improved his offensive game, too, for sure," Doncic said. "He's been playing really good."
One of moments that stood out to everyone in the Knick locker room was Ntilikina's dunk attempt on Porzingis.
"Frank has taken off in practice a few times where he tried to get some guys. That's who I want him to be," Fizdale said. "Battle. Don't overthink it. Just attack, if it's not there, make the right play."
Fizdale's thoughts on Ntilikina's confidence are noteworthy.
Some Knicks people felt that Ntilikina's confidence would waver in his first two seasons in New York, leading to uneven performances on the court. So the idea that Ntilikina's becoming more confident at this point bodes well for both the Knicks and the third-year guard.
"Every game, Frank is getting better. He's getting more and more comfortable," Marcus Morris said. "It's only been eight games, so I think he's going to continue to grow. Get more and more comfortable with players on the court and more comfortable with his shot. As you saw today, no hesitation and he played really well for us."
Ntilikina also left an impression with Porzingis, who had 28 points on Friday night but missed some shots in the fourth quarter of New York's win.
"Frank looked great. I know he's been putting in work. I know his work ethic and mindset. I'm happy to see him play and play well,"
Porzingis said. "It show the things he's capable of doing. He's been playing defensively the whole time but offensively tonight he got going. It's good to see him finally show what he's capable of. Going forward with his mindset and work ethic he's only going to get better. It sucks it was against us today.''
Ntilikina has started the last four games in Elfrid Payton's absence. Payton has been sidelined with a hamstring injury. He may return on Sunday against Cleveland. It will be interesting to see how Fizdale uses Ntilikina once Payton and Dennis Smith Jr. return.
It seems as if, whether he starts or comes off the bench, the Knicks will have to find a way to keep Ntilikina on the court.
It's worth noting that this is the first time in his NBA career that Ntilikina has started four consecutive games at point guard. He said earlier on Friday that the consistent minutes have been helpful
"You just get more experience. There's some stuff you work on at practice, on your workouts, but there's nothing like playing the game, playing rhythm games, tough competition games," Ntilikina said. "So that gives you a lot of experience and confidence on what you work on during practice."