BOSTON - David Fizdale wants to put his best defensive group on the floor Friday against Boston, so he's starting Frank Ntilikina at point guard for the first time this season.
"I just felt like, especially the way Kemba (Walker)'s playing, having Frank out there to start gives us a better chance," Fizdale said Friday morning.
Ntilikina began the season essentially out of the Knicks' rotation, playing just three minutes in the opening game of the season, 18 seconds in the third and not playing in the second. But since Elfrid Payton's hamstring injury, Ntilikina averaged 25 minutes in the next two games.
He had seven points, four assists and four rebounds in 29 minutes during New York's loss to Orlando on Wednesday.
Fizdale felt Ntilikina ran the team well, competed defensively and was aggressive on offense against the Magic.
"Hopefully he can keep building," Fizdale said.
Friday will be the 25th start of Ntilikina's 125-game career. He'll have his hands full against Walker, who torched the Knicks for 32 points (11-for-17 shooting, 7-for-11 from three-point range) in a 118-95 Celtics win on Oct. 26.
With Payton out for Sunday's game against Sacramento, Ntilikina will have a chance to earn the starting job Sunday with a strong performance against Boston.
The third-year guard will start alongside rookie RJ Barrett in the backcourt.
"I love playing with RJ. I think we complement each other," Ntilkina said. "He's a great guy. On both sides of the floor, he gives 100 percent."
Fizdale said he'd have to stagger Ntilikina and Barrett because he'll lean on both of them to handle the ball.
Allonzo Trier, who hasn't played in the past two games, may also see time as a ball-handler.
Fizdale said he's still figuring out how to fit Ntilikina, Wayne Ellington and Trier in the same rotation. He says he has to fined consistent minutes for Ellington because of the attention he draws from the opposing defense as a shooter.
Fizdale also said he's considered starting Bobby Portis at center in place of Mitchell Robinson, but he liked the way Robinson played early on against Orlando Wednesday.
He also disagreed with the idea that Robinson and Marcus Morris are struggled on the court together. New York is being outscored by 35 points in the 67 minutes that Morris and Robinson are on the court together.
"Numbers don't tell the whole story," Fizdale said. "A lot of it is just making shots. If shots are going down for us, the plus minus looks totally different…. If you just look at numbers, you could make decisions based on half the information." Fizdale cited some of Morris' misses, which he and Morris believe will eventually go down.