Knicks smoked by Celtics as Jalen Brunson limps off in closing seconds

BOSTON — The gap between Knicks and the Celtics has only seemed to widen.

New York’s latest defeat to its rival Friday night was worse than the 133-123 final score, a drubbing at TD Garden that reinforced the Knicks middle position on the Eastern Conference’s totem pole.

The Knicks (12-9) have dropped three games already to the Celtics, and their defense didn’t give them a chance Friday.

Boston (16-5) shot 53 percent overall, nailing 19 treys and getting 30 points from Derrick White.

The Celtics used a 14-7 run at the end of the first half to take a nine-point lead, and the score never got closer than seven in the second half despite Jaylen Brown being ejected in the fourth quarter for arguing with the referee.

The Knicks trailed for the final 29 minutes of game clock.

The Knicks trailed for the final 29 minutes of their 133-123 loss to the Celtics. AP

Adding injury to insult, Jalen Brunson left the game limping after landing on Celtics guard Payton Pritchard in garbage time.

Having padded their record against bottom dwellers, the Knicks are now 2-9 against teams with winning records.

Friday’s matchup was the loser’s bracket of the In-Season Tournament, an addition to the schedule that has been decidedly unfair to the Knicks.

They already played an extra game in Milwaukee on Tuesday, then tried to win Friday night at one of the toughest places to play in the NBA.

Jalen Brunson limped off in the final seconds of the Knicks’ loss to the Celtics. Screengrab via X/@NBA_NewYork

The Celtics are now 10-0 at home.

The Knicks would’ve been better off not advancing to the quarterfinals of Adam Silver’s tournament.

“It is what it is,” Brunson said.

The uninspiring effort followed a similar defeat three days earlier in Milwaukee, where the Knicks were bombarded with 3-pointers and blown out by another contender.

Against the Celtics, the Knicks’ starting lineup was especially outperformed.

Julius Randle scored 20 points for the Knicks in their loss to the Celtics. Getty Images

It did fine scoring — RJ Barrett had 23 points, Julius Randle had 20 and Brunson had 23 — but the defense was overwhelmed. The Knicks, for instance, were outscored by 21 points with Brunson on the court.

It was the first look of a new lineup for the Knicks, who replaced Quentin Grimes with Donte DiVincenzo at shooting guard.

The move was meant to boost the production and confidence of Grimes, who didn’t feel involved in the offense alongside three ball-dominant teammates — Brunson, Barrett and Randle.

It worked.

Grimes was more aggressive, more confident, more involved.

In his first nine-minute stretch as a sub, the 23-year-old scored more points (eight) than his previous seven games.

Grimes’ 13 points overall represented his most since Nov. 3.

He played about the same minutes as his average (19) and logged fourth-quarter time.

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