Jeremy Lin's emergence from utter obscurity has the New York Knicks gaining confidence and victories.
Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers are rarely lacking in either of those categories.
A budding fan favorite among the faithful at Madison Square Garden, Lin faces possibly his toughest test yet Friday night as the Knicks attempt to defeat Bryant and the Lakers at home for the first time in more than five years.
New York (11-15) was one of the NBA's biggest disappointments during a woeful 2-11 stretch Jan. 12-Feb. 3, but Lin has provided a much-needed spark since then.
The second-year point guard, who played only sparingly prior to the last three games, is averaging 25.3 points and 8.3 assists during the Knicks' three-game winning streak.
Lin's opportunity has come amid the absence of Knicks stars Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. Anthony is out with a strained right groin, while Stoudemire isn't expected back from grieving the death of his brother until Tuesday at Toronto.
In the meantime, Lin's sudden production and popularity has the Knicks selling shirts with "Linsanity" emblazoned across the front.
He lived up to the hype again Wednesday, scoring 23 points while shooting 9 of 14 from the floor and adding 10 assists in a 107-93 win at Washington.
"Like I said after the last game, I wouldn't have imagined this," said Lin, who went undrafted out of Harvard in 2010 and played his rookie season with Golden State, averaging 2.6 points in 29 games as a reserve.
Lin may be reviving both the Knicks' season and embattled coach Mike D'Antoni's job security.
"I think it's for real," D'Antoni said of Lin's surge. "The things that are real are his vision, which won't change; his speed, which won't change; his knowledge of the game, which won't change. I think it can only get better.
"He just does everything easy and the rest of the guys around him are playing the way we want to play."
Lin and the Knicks, who are looking to match their season-high four game winning streak from Jan. 6-11, are in for a major test against the Lakers (15-11).
The Knicks have lost nine in a row to Los Angeles, including four straight at MSG. They fell 99-82 in Los Angeles on Dec. 29, when Lin scored two points in 1:40 of playing time.
Bryant, the league leader with 29.2 points per game, has averaged 33.4 points during the Lakers' nine-game winning streak in this series. He's averaging an incredible 40.0 points in his last four visits to New York, including a 33-point effort in a 113-96 victory last Feb. 11.
Teammate Pau Gasol had 25 points, 14 rebounds and two blocks Thursday as the Lakers won 88-87 in overtime at Boston. One of the blocks came at the final buzzer to secure the victory.
"I've been in situations before in my career where you freeze ... catch yourself looking at the ball and end up losing the game," Gasol said.
Gasol is averaging 26.8 points and 9.0 rebounds in his last four road games against the Knicks.