BOSTON Much has changed for the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks since their last meeting on Feb. 3, a game in which the Celtics escaped with a 91-89 win. The victory put the C's two games above .500, while the Knicks were in full free-fall mode, falling to a season-worst seven games below .500.
New York was a desperate team, looking for anyone to provide hope that things couldn't possibly be as bad as they looked.
And then came Jeremy Lin, the Harvard-educated point guard picked up off the scrap heap of recently waived players by New York.
He played six nondescript minutes against Boston, offering no signs of what we all know now as Linsanity.
Lin lit the Nets up the following night in a 99-92 Knicks win.
Since then, it has been Lin - not Amar'e Stoudemire or Carmelo Anthony - that has made the Knicks relevant in the NBA and around the world.
"Lin has obviously taken over the world; that's dope," said Boston's Kevin Garnett. "You always like to see someone succeed at what they love. He plays with a lot of passion. But he's given not just that team, but that city, life."
New York is 9-3 with Lin in the starting lineup. In those 12 games, he's averaging 22.1 points and 9.2 assists while shooting 47.4 percent from the field, and 36.1 percent on threes.
"Jeremy Lin has played great," said Doc Rivers. "I have watched him, because you have no choice. He's fantastic. He's scoring the ball at a high rate; double-digit assists every night."
As well as Lin has played, he won't be the Celtics' only concern today.
Here are a few other factors that may come into play today as the Celtics look to win their third straight against a Knicks team that, like the C's, are looking to improve their playoff seeding.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR -- Of course much of the attention going into today's game will be on Lin who is scoring and tallying assists at an incredibly high rate. But his big numbers have come in the turnover category as well. Although he only committed one turnover in New York's last game on Wednesday, he has turned the ball over 68 times in his 12 starts -- the most by any player in their first 12 NBA starts since 1977, which is when turnovers became an official NBA statistic. The previous high was 64, set by Allen Iverson in 1996.
MATCHUP TO WATCH -- Kevin Garnett vs. Tyson Chandler: Garnett continues to play out of his mind, out of position. The power forward-turned-center has been a stalwart at both ends of the floor, scoring and defending like the old Garnett, not the "aging" Garnett. He has had back-to-back games with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, the fifth time he has done that as a Celtic but the first time since November 2008.
"Preference-wise, I don't like it," Garnett said of playing center. "I'm a four (power forward). I don't like -- you know, it is what it is. I'll do whatever this team needs me to be, other than a cheerleader with pom-pons and some short-shorts."
Chandler poses a different kind of challenge for Garnett. While the strength of most centers is usually the biggest concern for Garnett in the middle, Chandler's ability to run the floor will be the biggest challenge for Garnett today.
PLAYER TO WATCH -- During Boston's three-game winning streak, one of the more unsung heroes for the Celtics has been Chris Wilcox off the bench. In the last three games, Wilcox has averaged 8.7 points and 10.3 rebounds while shooting 60 percent (9-for-15) from the field. Celtics head coach Doc Rivers said Wilcox, more than anything else, is playing the role that he has to serve for the C's.
"His role is pretty much defined," Rivers said. "His role is energy, rebounding, running the floor, setting picks, rolling, finishing. I mean, that's a simple role. But it's a hard role to do everyday, because it takes energy to do it."
STAT TO TRACK -- The Celtics are coming off a 50-point night of points scored in the paint against New Jersey, the highest they had scored since they dropped 52 on the Knicks in the regular season-finale last April. One of the reasons the C's have to feel pretty good about their chances of scoring around the basket today is because the Knicks are not exactly a team filled with shot-blockers. In fact, New York ranks 28th in the NBA in blocks per game with 4.2.