Knicks-Celtics Preview

The Boston Celtics are on the verge of their first four-game win streak thanks to balanced scoring.

They figure to represent a major challenge for a visiting New York Knicks team that has struggled against winning teams, yet is unbeaten against Atlantic Division rivals heading into Sunday night's first matchup of the season.

Boston (17-13) has won three straight for the second time, showcasing its depth of talent on each occasion. Six Celtics scored in double digits in Monday's 113-99 win over Minnesota, five reached that plateau two nights later in a 102-89 victory at Charlotte and six more scored at least 10 in Saturday's 99-93 win at Detroit.

The Celtics seemed on course for a third straight double-digit win as they led by as many as 16 points against the Pistons, who used a 32-point fourth quarter to make a late push.

''We were lucky to hold on in some ways, but we put ourselves in a great position,'' coach Brad Stevens said.

Avery Bradley has turned in back-to-back 18-point performances with Isaiah Thomas totaling 35 points in those games. Jae Crowder had 11 points and seven rebounds Saturday after posting three straight double-doubles.

The Celtics' rotation could go deeper Sunday since Marcus Smart might return from an 18-game absence due to a left leg injury. Former Knicks forward David Lee sat out Saturday due to back spasms.

Boston is one of the league's most unselfish teams with 24.3 assists per game.

New York, in contrast, is in the bottom third of the league in that department with an average of 20.3. The Knicks (14-17) had 19 assists and scored 63 points to lead by three at halftime Saturday before managing six assists and shooting 30.0 percent the rest of the way in a 117-98 defeat at Atlanta.

"I think we're still having some growing pains with understanding that the game is easier for us when we have 19 assists in a half, not six," coach Derek Fisher said. "So we just have to continue to trust that even when games aren't going well, it's actually still ball movement and the player movement and selflessness that will get you back into a game."

The Knicks fell to 5-13 against teams with winning records. They are 4-0 against Atlantic foes, with three wins against lowly Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

"Our record is what it says we are at this point," Fisher said.

Carmelo Anthony returned to the lineup with 18 points and 12 rebounds after missing one game with a sprained right ankle. No other New York player scored more than 12.

Rookie Kristaps Porzingis has sandwiched nine-point performances around a 23-point, 13-rebound effort in his last three games.

Starting center Robin Lopez, who had nine points and four rebounds Saturday, didn't return after leaving in the third quarter with blood coming from a cut above his right eye.

"Robin was available to come back in if we needed him so we'll hopefully have him tomorrow night as we get ready to play Boston," Fisher said.

The Knicks lost the final three of four meetings with the Celtics last season. Boston is 4-2 in the second half of back-to-back sets and New York is 2-4.