Tom Thibodeau’s faith in Frank Ntilikina backfires on Knicks

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau made good on his promise. He would use Frank Ntilikina in spot instances to guard Trae Young.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau made good on his promise. He would use Frank Ntilikina in spot instances to guard Trae Young.

He put the Frenchman into the contest with 23 seconds left in the first half to hound Young on the last possession. It worked as the Hawks committed a turnover.

Thibodeau went back to the well with nine seconds left in the game and the score tied. It didn’t work. Young put the moves on Ntilikina — four crossovers — before he got by him and lifted the game-winning floater for the Hawks’ 107-105 victory in front of a stunned Madison Square Garden crowd of 15,047 on Sunday night.

Putting in Ntilikina cold backfired, though it’s not like Elfrid Payton or Derrick Rose could keep up with Young on this night.

“Obviously you’re putting Frank in for his defense,’’ Thibodeau said. “But [Young] made a good play, we’ll take a look at the film and go from there.’’

Ntilikina was not made available for comment.

Payton, his slide continuing, played just eight scoreless minutes — shooting 0-for-3 — as the starting point guard. Payton, who is scoreless in three of his past four outings, got yanked after four minutes in the opening quarter when his missed jumper led to a fast-break alley-oop from Young to John Collins.

Frank Ntilikina defends Trae Young during the Knicks loss to the Hawks on Sunday.
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Whether Thibodeau continues to stay with Payton as the starter now that the Knicks are down 0-1 remains to be seen.

Nerlens Noel limped off the court in the final minute after fouling Young, appearing to land awkwardly on his foot. The Knicks provided no update on his status.

The Knicks’ rookies looked more comfortable than some of the veterans. Immanuel Quickley made 4 of 7 shots in 21 minutes, including both his 3s. And Obi Toppin had a solid 8-minute stint in the second quarter during which he played with energy, hit a 3-pointer and threw down a monster driving dunk. Toppin played 11:51. The Knicks coaching staff had mulled whether to reduce Toppin’s minutes in the postseason for defensive reasons, but he held his own.

Some scouts have pegged Knicks SG Reggie Bullock as a wild card in the series, but he struggled from 3-point land — missing all five of his attempts. The Knicks shot just 33.3 percent from beyond the arc (10 of 30).

The Hawks won despite a ragged performance from ex-Knick Danilo Gallinari, who scored seven points on just 3 of 11 shooting.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Marc Berman

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