Knicks PG Ntilikina expects to miss Pistons matchup (Oct 21, 2017)

NEW YORK — Two days after surviving a 24-point effort by Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker in a 12-point season-opening win, the Detroit Pistons were not quite so lucky on Friday as John Wall’s 27 points lifted the Washington Wizards to a 115-111 win.

The Pistons will have one less point guard to worry about on Saturday night in New York as the Knicks kick off their Madison Square Garden slate with a 8 p.m. matchup.

Knicks top draft pick Frank Ntilikina suffered a sprained ankle in Friday’s practice and is expected to miss the matchup on Saturday, robbing New York fans of their first live look at their projected point guard of the future.

“Looked like I thought he maybe stepped on Willy’s (Hernangomez’s) foot,” coach Jeff Hornacek told Newsday. “He went to box him out and it looked like he stepped on his foot. Hopefully, it’s not too bad.”

The post-Carmelo Anthony era was already off to a bad start for the Knicks, who lost their road opener to Anthony’s new team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, 105-84 on Thursday. Ntilikina’s injury leaves the team even thinner in the backcourt, where the Knicks were torched by Russell Westbrook and Co. on Thursday.

New York’s six-man rotation of point guards Ramon Sessions and Ntilikina and shooting guards Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway Jr., Ron Baker and Damyean Dotson combined for 26 total points in 115 minutes.

Detroit’s retooled backcourt, meanwhile, is off to a solid start with the addition of Avery Bradley, who has formed a potent combo with mainstay Reggie Jackson. Jackson himself is a new player after an injury-plagued 2016-17 season.

“I need him to make our team go,” Detroit center Andre Drummond told reporters. “Everybody knows Reggie is one of the best point guards in the league, but I needed him to get everyone else involved.”

Saturday’s matchup will also provide a prime matchup between two of the premier young big men in the league in New York’s Kristaps Porzingis and Drummond.

Porzingis, the Knicks’ do-everything power forward, appears poised to take the scoring mantle from Anthony, as his 31-point 12-rebound effort paced New York in the season opener. Porzingis was asked by reporters whether he is ready to assume the reins from Anthony as the unquestioned Knicks leader, and he seemed up to the task.

“I never doubt myself,” Porzingis told reporters on Thursday. “I never feel I’m not ready for something, even if it’s the most difficult challenge in my life. I had a great experience watching Melo, how he does stuff on and off the court. … We’re going to realize as we go forward how much pressure he took off of everybody and how valuable a player like that actually is.”

Drummond, Detroit’s defensively dominant center, is off to a meager start on offense with just 17 points in two games, but his 25 rebounds are among the best in the league. Two years removed from his first and only All-Star appearance in 2015-16, when he led the league in rebounds with 14.8, the Pistons are hoping Drummond’s offense jumps a notch or two.

For the Knicks, eager to turn the page from a drama-filled past few seasons with Anthony, the Pistons provide a good opportunity, though they might also be without forward Michael Beasley after he suffered a sprained ankle against the Thunder.