BOSTON — Knicks coach David Fizdale flip-flopped Friday morning and decided to sic Frenchman Frank Ntilikina on star Celtics point guard Kemba Walker, after all.
While the Knicks dropped the 104-102 decision on a last-second shot by Jayson Tatum, Ntilikina held his own, highlighted by his chasedown block of Marcus Smart in the first half.
Ntilikina scored 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting, hit 2 of 4 3-pointers, dished out two assists with three rebounds.
“Confidence and just playing free and not worry about anything,’’ Fizdale said of Ntilikina’s play. “He’s just doing the job I’m asking him to do, and I’m really proud how he’s going about it.’’
Though Walker put up 33 points, Fizdale said it didn’t matter because the Knicks had a chance to win it in the final seconds.
Thursday, Fizdale stuck to his guns and had announced he would continue to start the backcourt of RJ Barrett and Wayne Ellington amidst the team’s point guard crisis before changing course.
The Knicks are without three of their point guards — Elfrid Payton (hamstring), Dennis Smith Jr. (family leave following the death of his stepmother) and Kadeem Allen (knee). They may be out a while.
“Great things,’’ Ntilikina said afterward about the team’s performance. “The ball movement was great. It was not perfect, but we still improved tonight and we’ve got to keep on working, keep on trusting each other, make plays for each other and it’s going to come. But I think we’re right there.’’