Lonzo Ball might have had a few more points, but Frank Ntilikina came alive when it mattered most.
The New York Knicks rookie point guard outdueled the Los Angeles Lakers No. 2-overall pick on Tuesday night in a 113-109 overtime victory at Madison Square Garden, putting up a career-high 13 points with five rebounds and five assists.
Nine of those came in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Frenchman earned some valuable minutes down the stretch.
While this isn't a performance that jumps off the page, it is indicative of the progress Ntilikina has made over his 24 games in the NBA. Especially in his last three.
Over his first 21 games in the league, Ntilikina was living up to the billing of being that pass-first point guard that showed the promise of directing an offense. However, he looked hesitant to shoot or attack the rim, struggling to put together any kind of real scoring threat:
Frank Ntilikina stats: First 21 NBA games
19.3 minutes per game
3.0 game score
9 three-point field goals made
While three games is a small sample size, you can see Ntilikina is starting to look a little bit more comfortable within the Knicks offense. Most notably on Tuesday night, he hit a career-high three three-pointers after having hit just nine in his first 21 games.
When given space, he wasn't afraid to pull up for a shot and even exhibited a little flash, dishing a no-look pass to Kyle O'Quinn during a closely-contested fourth quarter:
You can't be uncomfortable and make a play like that during a two-point game in the final nine minutes.
But let the numbers do the talking, even if it's just three games:
Frank Ntilikina stats: Last three games
25.5 minutes per game
9.4 game score
6 three-point field goals made