by Jonah Ballow
NYKnicks.com
@jonahballow

7:00 PM ET | Smoothie King Center
TV:  MSG
Radio: ESPN 98.7 FM

1.  For four quarters, the Knicks fought one of the league’s elite teams on Thursday night.  New York faced a daunting challenge on the second of a back-to-back and against a Spurs team that had won an NBA-best 16 games on their home floor.  Several times throughout the contest, the Knicks flirted with taking the lead but San Antonio remained resilient and a 7-0 run late in the game secured the victory.  Michael Beasley poured in 23 points and grabbed 12 boards while LaMarcus Aldridge scored a game-high 25 points in the 119-107 win for the Spurs.  

2.  Facing his childhood idol and fellow Frenchman, Frank Ntilikina dished out a season-high 11 dimes in 31 minutes of court time.  Ntilikina received high praise from the future Hall-of-Famer Tony Parker and tonight the rookie will face another dynamic point guard with a title on his resume.  On Thursday night, Rajon Rondo registered a career-high 25 assists and became the first player to reach that number since Jason Kidd in 1996.  Rondo is a different type of point guard when compared to Tony Parker’s quick and penetrating style of offense.  The Pelicans lead man is similar to Ntilikina in his defensive abilities and Rondo will methodically attempt to pick apart the opposing defense.  Tonight’s matchup will present another learning opportunity for New York’s 19-year old point guard.

3.  Kristaps Porzingis expressed the desire to improve his defense prior to this season.  Specifically, the big man wanted to protect the rim and force opponents to adjust their attempts when entering the paint.  Over his last three games, Porzingis has averaged 4.6 blocks per outing and he swatted six shots against San Antonio on Thursday.  Currently, Porzingis ranks third in blocks in the NBA at a 2.24 clip, behind Kevin Durant and Myles Turner. 

4.  This offseason, the Pelicans re-signed Jrue Holiday and inked Rondo to solidify the backcourt.  After a 34-48 finish last year, New Orleans hoped the twin towers would form a fierce frontcourt to push the team into the postseason in 2017-18.  DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are certainly putting up the numbers this far.  Cousins leads the team in points, rebounds, and steals.  Meanwhile, Davis is the Pelicans best shot blocker and is second on the squad in points per game.  The two big men combine to average 51.8 points, 22.6 rebounds, and 3.57 blocks.  

5.  Following a three-game win streak, New Orleans suffered a 128-120 defeat to the Mavericks last night.  The loss dropped the Pelicans to 18-17 on the season and in the eighth spot in the latest Western Conference standings.  This year, New Orleans ranks in the top three in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, assists, and points in the NBA.  The Pelicans are also the sixth-best team in the league in offensive rating heading into tonight’s matchup.