The Knicks found themselves down by as much as 28 points in Saturday night's game against the Spurs and ultimately lost by seven, but if there were a moral victory to be found from the performance--though David Fizdale says there are no moral victories--it would be Frank Ntilikina's performance.
Ntilikina put together one of his best all-around games of the season against San Antonio, scoring nine points, grabbing nine rebounds and dishing out a season-high nine assists. But those stats aren't even the main takeaways of his night.
The point guard played a great game on the defensive side of the ball by locking up ball handlers, pressing up in the backcourt and stealing the ball a career-high tying six times, helping the Knicks cause 21 Spurs turnovers Saturday.
Ntilikina is one of 18 players in NBA history to have 9+ points, 9+ assists, 6+ steals and zero turnovers in a game.
The third-year guard from France is having a successful stretch as the team's new starting point guard since Elfrid Payton went down with a hamstring injury.
Ntilikina has started the last 11 games for New York, and is averaging nearly eight points, four assists and 2.1 steals per game. Although those stats (aside from the steals) might not jump off the stat sheet, his production hasn't gone unnoticed.
"He had nine assists, nine points, I mean it's a heck of a game," Fizdale said after the game. "He's competing his butt off. ...Frank's competing."
The Spurs were coming off a surprising eight-game losing streak and were able to get that much needed victory. Despite being down so much, there is something the Knicks can take from out scoring the Spurs in the second half and nearly making a comeback.
"What I see is a good lesson today," Ntilikina said. "We're still getting better, we saw a lot of good things tonight, but there is a lot of experience to take from this game."
With the Nets coming into Madison Square Garden tomorrow, Ntilikina knows that the Knicks will need to have a bigger sense of urgency right when the game starts and not waiting too long for things to click.
"I'm the first layer of this as a point guard, picking it up and bringing that energy. That's something that I learned today that I'm going to apply tomorrow," Ntilikina said."