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Shooting slump puts Frank Ntilikina back on bench

Frank Ntilikina #11 of the New York Knicks

Frank Ntilikina #11 of the New York Knicks reacts after a foul during the second half against the Atlanta Hawks at Barclays Center on Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 in New York City. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Frank Ntilikina’s shooting slump finally dragged him under. After shooting only 21 percent in his previous five games, he was benched for the Knicks’ 109-95 loss to Milwaukee at the Garden on Christmas Day.

Trey Burke, who sat out the previous two games, played 14 minutes and had two points on 1-for-7 shooting.

“Frank has been struggling [and] Trey is back, [so] let’s take a look at it,” coach David Fizdale said. “That’s kind of what I’ve been doing with these guys: When one guy hits a certain amount of gas where he is struggling, the next guy is up [and] let’s give them a look. It’ll never be a permanent thing. Frank is very important to us and we just have to find a way to just get that confidence back for him.”

Ntilikina is averaging 6.3 points and 2.6 rebounds in 22 minutes per game.

No Greek Freak faceoff

There was no Christmas confrontation between the Knicks’ Mario Hezonja and the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo. After Hezonja dunked and then stepped over the fallen Antetokounmpo Dec. 1, the Milwaukee star said he would punch him in the groin if it happened again.

He never got the chance Tuesday because Hezonja didn’t play, but the Bucks’ organization took some shots of its own. It posted what appeared to be a playful article on its website that called Hezonja “arguably the worst player on a dreadful Knicks team.”

The link to the story was put up in a post by the team’s official Twitter handle on Monday.  Both the article and tweet were removed on Tuesday.

Healthy Trier hits court

Allonzo Trier returned from the hamstring injury that sidelined him for the previous seven games and had eight points in 18 minutes, shooting 4-for-10.

“I felt good. Obviously, I’m not back to my full self yet,” Trier said. “I’ve got to get into game shape, get some game feel. But it was good to run up and down and join the game with my teammates again.”

Trier, who is averaging 11.3 points in 23 minutes per game, said the team was extremely careful not to rush him back.  He added, “I was confident they made sure I came back when I was fully healthy. I didn’t have any pain. I didn’t think about it at all. I felt as normal as could be out there.”

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