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Elfrid Payton dishing it out at Knicks' point with no turnovers on his plate

Point guard Elfrid Payton feels increased minutes have

Point guard Elfrid Payton feels increased minutes have let him learn where his teammates like the ball. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — If there has been a constant in the Knicks’ last six games, it’s the steady play of Elfrid Payton.

Payton, who missed 16 games with a hamstring injury, has been a calming influence since returning to the rotation seven games ago.

Payton’s first game back wasn’t good for anyone — the Knicks suffered a 37-point loss to Denver in a game that would be the last for coach David Fizdale — but he has been incredibly efficient with 40 assists and only six turnovers in the Knicks' last six, during which the team went 3-3. He heads into Friday night’s game in Miami with 24 assists and no turnovers in the last three games, and the Knicks have gone 2-1.

In the win over Sacramento, he had 16 points and four assists. He followed that with 11 assists in a loss to Denver and nine assists in a win over Atlanta.

“He’s played so well. He’s had such a good command,” interim coach Mike Miller said after practice Thursday. “I think I might have said this yesterday and the day before; he’s helping his teammates a lot. He’s doing so many things out there. Let alone 20 assists no turnovers over the last two games. That’s a phenomenal number.”

Payton, who signed with the Knicks during the summer, garnered a lot of attention last year when he had a triple-double in five straight games with the Pelicans. He became only the fifth player in NBA history to do so.

Before suffering the hamstring injury, Payton was the man at point guard for Fizdale. He did not start the opener but moved into the lineup for the three subsequent games. Though he has continued to come off the bench since his return, he has played   more minutes as a reserve than starter Frank Ntilikina has in the last four games.

Payton believes he’s finally getting to know his teammates and where they like to have the ball.

"It definitely helps,” he said. “It’s a time thing. I know y’all might be tired of hearing it, but we have a lot of new guys here, so those type of things take time. We’re kind of figuring it out, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

“Just trying to protect the ball. Some nights it’s going to be better than other nights. Guys are knocking down shots. [Mitchell Robinson] is doing a good job rolling to the rim. That’s really it. Trying to make everyone as comfortable as possible out there.”

Notes & quotes: Ntilikina and Julius Randle practiced and are expected to play in Miami. Allonzo Trier (concussion) and Wayne Ellington (sore Achilles) remain out.

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