The New York Knicks visit the Boston Celtics on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, ABC) in what figures to be game both hyped and impactful. The Knicks, all square at 18-18, won in their only game since the All-Star break. That victory, a Wednesday domination of the Cleveland Cavaliers, saw Jeremy Lin have perhaps his best game since the 38-point explosion against the L.A. Lakers. Lined up across from presumptive Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, Lin put up 19 points on 6-12 shooting, 13 assists, five rebounds and one turnover. It was sheer brilliance. Carmelo Anthony was the Knicks' top scorer, and all was right with the world.
Rajon Rondo is Lin's match-up on Sunday, and the East All-Star will be just as pass-happy as the Knicks' guard. Rondo has delivered at least 10 assists in four straight games, and in 13 of his 25 games this season. Boston is 3-0 since the break, and Rondo has averaged 9 points, 11 assists and 5 rebounds per game over that stretch.
The teams have played twice already this season, with each team winning at home. Paul Pierce didn't play in the first pairing on Christmas Day, a narrow Knicks victory. All hands were on deck in Boston's home win on Feb. 3, but Lin was still seeing only garbage time at that point.
The Celtics and Knicks are currently locked in a battle for the No. 7 seed. Boston has a half-game advantage which would obviously flip if New York wins. The Celtics are currently 18-17, thanks to their winning streak; the Knicks, as noted, are 18-18. The two have ground to make up on the Atlanta Hawks, the current No. 6 seed at 22-15, but have breathing room over the No. 9 Milwaukee Bucks at 14-23.
The Knicks and Celtics will meet one more time on April 17 in New York.