David Fizdale gives third-year French guard Frank Ntilikina the start in the backcourt with rookie R.J. Barrett against the Celtics on Friday.
The Knicks are shipping up to Boston for an early rematch with the Boston Celtics on Friday night.
The two teams previously met last weekend on October 26th, when the Knicks (1-4) quickly ran out of gas after a hot start and the Celtics (3-1) settled in and pulled ahead, winning 118-95. The Knicks will look for a better and more competitive result this time around, as they search for their first road win of the year.
Meanwhile, the new-look Celtics have been heating up. Since losing their season opener to Philadelphia, they have won three-straight with victories over Toronto, New York, and Milwaukee.
Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. EST.
David Fizdale might have dodged putting Ntilikina against the Magic, but not this time around. Both Dennis Smith Jr. and Elfrid Payton remain unavailable for Friday, putting Ntilikina in a spot to receive a huge amount of minutes once again. Knicks fans at Madison Square Garden—and at home—were clamoring for Ntilikina to come out in that October 26th game against Boston. Although their wishes will be granted a week later than they had wanted, not only will he receive a huge amount of playing time versus the Celtics, but on Friday morning it was announced that he will be in the starting lineup.
Ntilikina got to see 29 minutes of action against the Magic. He finished with seven points, on 3-of-8 shooting, and had four boards, four assists, with no turnovers. Although it wasn’t entirely a dazzling stat line, the fact that he didn’t turn the ball over was encouraging, since the Knicks were struggling to find playmakers that didn’t have a turnover issue. He remains an asset defensively, and he’ll finally get an opportunity to face off against Kemba Walker, who he locked down in the 2019 FIBA World Cup this past summer. The Knicks will hope he channels a similar performance to the one he had in China, as Walker torched the Knicks earlier this season with a 32-point outing, as Ntilikina was glued to the bench.
After an early season low of 83 points against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, the Knicks will look to get going offensively this time around. While they showed some defensive toughness in that loss, particularly from the likes of Mitchell Robinson and Marcus Morris Sr., they struggled to muster much scoring the last time out on the floor.
Outside of a bright spot created by a near triple-double by Julius Randle and the two-way anchor that is Robinson—Morris, Wayne Ellington, and R.J. Barrett struggled, combining for just 20 points on 7-of-30 shooting. They’ll look to bounce back from that cold-shooting performance against the Celtics.
Keep an eye on Barrett, who seemed to hit a brief hurdle with the Magic—which is fine, you can’t expect him to be always hot especially as a rookie—but he had his highest-scoring performance yet against the Celtics, when he tallied 26 points in the home-opener loss.
The former New York big man won’t be around to face his former team again. He is listed as out with a left knee contusion, per the New York Daily News‘ Stefan Bondy. Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams are also listed as questionable.