Frank Ntilikina walked into David Fizdale's office about two weeks ago and told him he was a dog.
The Knicks guard had annoyed his potential in his first two years in the NBA, but after a summer of hard work and a disappointing start to his third season, Ntilikina was ready for something to change.
"He just said, 'Coach, I've been through a lot of my two years and I feel like I finally understand what the NBA is about. I know I haven't shown it yet, but I'm a dog too, "Fizdale said.
Thursday evening in the Garden he gave another reminder of this.
Ntilikina, who hit two clutch free throws with 3.9 seconds left, brought defensive tenacity and energy that saved the Knicks for a 1
"Oh man, he was a bulldog tonight," Fizdale said. "He's really a drug dog when it comes to competition."
Ntilikina didn't have the boxing night he did last week against the Mavericks in Dallas, but still counts 18 minutes.
After Luka Doncic caught fire late in the third quarter with Ntilikina on the bench with five fouls, Ntilikina limited the Mavericks star to only two points in the main fourth quarter.
With the Knicks up 96-95, Ntilikina pulled the ball away from Doncic and hit the floor to fall on it, forcing a jump ball. After trying to knock the ball with Doncic, Ntilikina clapped the court and then went and won the summit over Doncic, firing at the crowd.
"Today my goal – my shot didn't fall – but I thought I could bring something to my team, on the other hand," said Ntilikina, who finished with five points (1-of-4 shooting), three fights. two assists and theft. "So I tried to go in and bring in the energy and set the tone. The whole team did this and the crowd followed. It was a great night for us. "
Ntilikina started her seventh straight point guard game, an opportunity that came as nails lost to Elfrid Peyton (knee) and Dennis Smith, Jr. (danger). It was at this time that Ntilikina met Fizdale.
"I think the work I did all summer and even before last season while I was early allowed me to be more comfortable," Ntilikina said. "Everything else in life is more comfortable – here in this country, my situation as an NBA player – everything is set up now. So my mind is straight into basketball and I'm ready to get to the next level. I think that was the attitude: just get to the next level and how I can get to the next level by being a dog. "
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