The Knicks are a familiar foe, but Sunday will be different

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The Knicks are a familiar foe, but Sunday will be different

BOSTON Whenever the New York Knicks come to town, it's always a big deal.

But when the Boston Celtics face the Knicks on Sunday, well, let's say it'll be a bigger deal than usual.

Both teams are in a relatively tight race for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, and then there's . . . Jeremy Lin.

Much has changed for the Knicks' fortunes since the Harvard graduate burst onto the scene just a few weeks ago.

He has taken a Knicks team that was seemingly headed nowhere in a hurry on a run of success that now has them thinking beyond simply getting to the playoffs.

"They're playing with spirit," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "When you watch them, the ball is moving and all that stuff. But they're playing now, like they have a chance. They believe."

And Lin, more than any other Knicks player, is the reason for that.

Since he was inserted in the starting lineup against Utah on Feb. 6, the Knicks are 9-3.

"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. I haven't really followed him much or jumped on the bandwagon. That's not my style. But I keep an eye on it."

Garnett added, "He's definitely put a spark in the city, and there's no better city to spark up than New York."

Rivers hasn't seen too much of the Knicks this season, but when it comes to Lin . . .

"I have watched him," Rivers said. "Because you have no choice. He's fantastic. He's scoring the ball at a high rate; double-digit assists every night."

But if he were all the Celtics had to worry about, they'd be in pretty good shape.

In addition to Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks also have Baron Davis, who is healthy enough to play now, and they picked up J.R. Smith, who rejoins the NBA after spending most of this past season in the Chinese Basketball Association.

"That's an impressive amount of talent on one team," Rivers said.

And the team that the C's have faced twice this season will be much tougher to put away on Sunday.

"They're definitely a lot different based on what they're doing with Jeremy Lin, getting some healthy bodies back . . . they've been playing really well of late," said Celtics Captain Paul Pierce.

The same can be said for the Celtics, who remain undefeated following the break after Friday night's 10794 win. The 107 points equaled the Celtics' season-high for points scored (at Miami, Dec. 27, 2011) this season.

And with both coming in separated by just a half game, you can expect this game will be like most Boston-New York games and won't be decided until the final minute or two of play.

Pierce expects the game to be challenging, primarily because both teams have so much at stake.

"We're both aiming for the same thing; we're aiming for position right here," Pierce said. "We're both seventh and eighth seeds now. We're playing for the Atlantic Division. We got a lot to play for. They'll come with it, but we'll be ready."

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

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Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)