by Jonah Ballow

7:30 PM ET | Madison Square Garden
Radio: ESPN 98.7 FM

1.  The Knicks executed down the stretch to upend the Pelicans in an extremely important road victory on Friday night.  New Orleans seemed to be in control after a 24-12 run in the third quarter and at the 2:57 mark of the fourth period when the home team owned an eight-point lead.  New York answered in impressive fashion by outscoring the Pelicans 14-4 in the final three minutes to steal the 105-103 road victory.  Second chance points were a key metric in the win as the Knicks racked up 15 points in that category.       

2.  On Friday, Porzingis delivered clutch buckets to help lift his squad to the win in the Big Easy.  The third-year man is learning how to operate in crunch time.  In the contest against the Pelicans, Porzingis scored 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting from the floor, drilled a 3-pointer, and recorded a blocked shot in the fourth quarter.  The impressive part of his Friday night performance was the opposition he faced in the frontcourt.  DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis are two of the best big men in the league and Porzingis found a way to shine above the two All-Stars in carrying New York to the two-point win.  This year, Porzingis ranks third in the NBA in fourth quarter scoring at seven points per game in the final stanza, behind Lou Williams and LeBron James.

3.  In the first meeting between the two teams, rookie Frank Ntilikina squared off against his idol and fellow Frenchmen, Tony Parker.  The two players have only met in passing but the December 28 contest presented an opportunity for Ntilikina to chat with Parker after facing him on the floor.  Parker is one of the most accomplished European players in the NBA with four championship rings, a Finals MVP, and six All-Star appearances.  The 19-year old Ntilikina seemed to raise the level of his play in the late December matchup as he dished out a career-high 11 assists in 231 minutes of court time.  Tonight, Ntilikina will get his second and last chance to go toe-to-toe with Parker this season.

4.  On December 28, New York fell to San Antonio 119-107 despite a solid night from Michael Beasley (23 points, 12 rebounds).  In fact, the Knicks cut the deficit to just one point early in the third quarter and trailed by single digits heading into the fourth quarter.  However, San Antonio created space in the fourth period by posting 33 points and hitting 4-of-5 shots from long range.  Six players scored in double figures for the Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge dropped a game-high 25 points in the win.      

5.  Since returning to the lineup, Kawhi Leonard has played every other game except for two consecutive contests on December 12 and December 15.  The two-time Defensive Player of the Year did not suit up against the Knicks in the first matchup.  He played 28 minutes in a loss to the Pistons on Saturday night and is currently listed as probable for tonight’s game at MSG.  San Antonio enters New York with a 25-12 overall record after its three-game win streak was snapped in Detroit.  The Spurs rank No. 1 in points allowed and third in defensive rating in the NBA.