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Frank Ntilikina struggles after good first half

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina brings the ball upcourt

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina brings the ball upcourt against the Magic at Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Frank Ntilikina returned to the Knicks’ lineup after missing the previous game with a sprained left ankle, but he was a spectator for much of the fourth quarter Sunday afternoon.

Ntilikina provided a lift in the first half of the Knicks’ 105-100 loss to the Magic. He shot 3-for-4 and had an assist to help the Knicks cut a 17-point deficit to three by halftime. The rookie point guard shot 1-for-5 in the second half, though, and watched the final nine minutes of the game from the bench.

“I thought he had good energy in the first half,” Jeff Hornacek said. “Second half, it looked like he was laboring a little bit.”

The Knicks’ other rookie, Damyean Dotson, got his first NBA start in place of Tim Hardaway Jr., who sat out with a stress injury in his lower leg. Dotson scored two points in 22 minutes.

Hornacek said he started Dotson because he wanted to keep the second group together as much as possible and have Doug McDermott give the Knicks scoring off the bench. McDermott shot 1-for-7 and had four points.

In a foul mood

Hornacek wasn’t happy with the free-throw differential — the Magic shot 29 and the Knicks 10 — and voiced his displeasure. He could hear from the league office about that.

“We didn’t get to the free-throw line and we’re the home team,” Hornacek said. “They had 11 fouls, we had 24. That’s the difference in the game.”

Fast breaks

Hornacek said Michael Beasley “possibly” could continue to start if Kristaps Porzingis (right ankle sprain) continues to miss time. Beasley has scored 51 points in the last two games he started for Porzingis. Hornacek also noted that he needs defense, so Lance Thomas is a possibility . . . Joakim Noah was active for the second time this season but didn’t play. Noah and Willy Hernangomez were the only Knicks to not get in the game. Noah, who played in a G League game last week, has appeared in only one game for the Knicks this season.

New York Sports