DALLAS — Advantage, Frank Ntilikina.
In the battle of rookie point guards, Ntilikina had the better game than Dennis Smith Jr., though often times they weren’t on the court together or matched up with one another.
Though on the bench the final four minutes, Ntilikina had a decent outing, scoring seven points, five assists, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks in his 25 minutes. And when he did defend Smith, he shut him down.
Smith scored 11 points on 5-of-14 shooting in 24:33 and added five assists and two steals. The Knicks passed on Smith in last spring’s and LeBron James claimed they blew it. Not if you watched the game Sunday as Ntilikina’s defense shone through.
“We didn’t play one-on-one a lot during this game, but when we did I think I did a good job containing him,’’ Ntilikina said. ‘He’s very athletic, very good to the rim, explodes above average. So that’s what I wanted to contain.I think I did a pretty good job, so I’m happy for it and looking forward to playing him again.”
Ntilikina and Smith were first on the court together with 8:40 left in the half, with Ntilikina guarding J.J. Barea and Ron Baker defending Smith. Soon, Ntilikina blocked Barea on a drive. The rookies were matched against one another and Ntilikina buried a straightaway 3 over Smith, then got a roll on another 3-pointer early in the fourth quarter.
Smith scored most of his points against Jarrett Jack.
“I already knew prior to the game he’s a really good player, he has a bright future, he understands the game, he’s a really good defender,’’ Smith said of Ntilikina. “We didn’t have too many plays of me and him one-on-one, but he’s a really good defender.He found his niche early in the league. It ain’t nothing but respect for him. I’m super excited for him.”
Smith struggled with his shooting until burying a buzzer-beating 3-pointer over Jack to end the half with Ntilikina on the bench.
Before the game, Rick Carlisle indicated the Mavericks were ready to draft Ntilkina if the Knicks took Smith and was “desperate’’ to interview him.
“I like him a lot,’’ Carlisle said. “I love the way he competes. He’s young and he is growing quickly. I love the consistency of his competitiveness. Defensively he’s really ahead of the curve for a rookie with his length, intensity and anticipation. I understand why New York drafted him eighth.”
One day after reports teams are interested in Willy Hernangomez, the young Spanish center played his first meaningful minutes in a while, getting a 4:34 run in the second quarter. He was then brought with 5:34 left to spell Kristaps Porzingis for 1:30.The Post reported the Knicks have gotten more inquiries about the seldom-used Hernangomez than anyone on the roster. … Coming off 20 points in 23 minutes in Miami, a scorching Michael Beasley sat out with a sprained ankle suffered in overtime. … During a 33-minute halftime, Derek Harper, a star of the Knicks’ 1993-94 Eastern Conference champion team, saw his No. 12 Mavericks jersey retired to the rafters.