NEW YORK -- With all the hype surrounding Lonzo Ball and his family on Tuesday night in a nationally televised game at Madison Square Garden, it was easy to forget about the Knicks own soft-spoken rookie point guard, Frank Ntilikina.
Ball was the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft out of UCLA, while Ntilkina was the No. 8 pick out of France.
Ball's loquacious father, Lavar Ball, sat courtside opposite the Knicks bench wearing a red "Big Baller Brand" T-Shirt. He sat next to his younger sons LiAngelo, 19, and LaMelo, 16, who just turned the Twitterverse upside down by signing to play professionally in Lithuania beginning in January. While even the casual fan knows who Lavar Ball is, nobody can name a single relative of Ntilikina.
But in the end, the French Prince outplayed Ball down the stretch, scoring 9 of his career-high 13 points in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Knicks edged the Lakers, 113-109, in overtime. Ntilikina added 5 rebounds and 5 assists, essentially playing Ball (17 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists) to a draw.
"He's a great player, man," a gracious Ball said of Ntilikina. "He's young just like me, playing in a big city, trying to find his way. So much respect to him."
Clutch bucket 🇫 pic.twitter.com/5T5wjclp6I- NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) December 13, 2017
Kristaps Porzingis had a monster game for the Knicks with 37 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks. Per Basketball Insiders, he became the first player ever to notch 35 points, 10 rebounds, 5 blocks and 5 three-pointers in a game.
Michael Beasley also came up huge for the Knicks, scoring 12 of his 13 points in the fourth period and overtime.
Early on it looked like Ball had the big edge over Ntilikina in the point guard matchup. During one third-quarter stretch, Ball scored eight straight points, including a dunk, a three-pointer and a layup -- each of which got Lavar out of his seat and mugging for the crowd.
But Ntilikina's influence emerged in the second half. He led one third-quarter fast break in which he dished to Beasley who then one-touched the ball to Doug McDermott for a layup. Ntilikina later hit back-to-back jumpers with about 5 minutes left in the fourth, and then added a three-pointer to give the Knicks a 95-90 lead.
Ntilikina said he wasn't especially motivated for the Ball matchup, but it was clear it meant something to him to play his fellow 19-year-old lottery pick.
"It was great," Ntilikina said. "Playing against him was exciting. He's a young player, he's going to be great. He has long size, unbelievable vision of the court and he can make plays. So it as exciting as playing against all the point guards but he's very good."
When asked if Ntilikina got hyped for the matchup, Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek jokingly said, "No," but then added, "He's going to be a great player in this league. He doesn't shy away from anything. He's a basketball player."
With Ntilikina guarding him, Ball threw the ball out of bounds with the Knicks up 99-94 in regulation and expressed frustration in the direction of his family.
After Kyle Kuzma forced the OT with a three-pointer, Ntilikina was whistled for a foul on Ball, but replays showed he never touched him.
In the end, Ntilikina and the Knicks beat Ball in the latter's Garden debut. Looking forward, both Ball and Ntilikina figure to be fixtures in the league for some time. Who's poised for greater longer-term success remains to be seen.
The Lakers could add Paul George and/or LeBron James next summer in free agency, while the Knicks are counting on the continued development of their core of Porzingis, Ntilikina, Tim Hardaway Jr. and others.
But this burgeoning point guard rivalry looks like it will grow in the coming years, with many more of these tasty battles between Ball and Ntilikina -- between the Lakers and the Knicks -- to come.
"Maybe, maybe," Ntilikina said. "But honestly what I'm focused on is my team and how we can grow, so maybe is going to be the case, maybe it's not. We'll see."
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