Knicks topple Celtics behind Jalen Brunson’s huge night to keep push for No. 2 seed alive

BOSTON — The Knicks are still alive for No. 2.

Beating the NBA’s best was a breeze for the surging squad, which trampled the sleepwalking Celtics in Beantown, 118-109, behind 39 points from — who else? — Jalen Brunson.

“He should win MVP,” OG Anunoby said.

Jalen Brunson scored 39 points for the Knicks during their 118-109 win over the Celtics on Thursday. AP

The win, which included a 31-point lead in the third quarter, represented a third in a row for the Knicks (48-32) and fifth in six games.

They created a cushion around the East’s third spot — which they will clinch with a win Friday against the sad-sack Nets — and they are just one behind the Bucks for second with two to play.

Since the Bucks own the tiebreaker, the Knicks would have to win out (against the Nets and Bulls) and Milwaukee drop its final two (at the Thunder and Magic).

Anything seems possible now with Brunson in Jordan mode and Giannis Antetokounmpo out for the remainder of the regular season with a calf strain.

Tom Thibodeau’s squad is peaking at the right time.

Still, Thursday’s blowout was a bit misleading.

The Celtics (62-18) were clearly playing at a reduced speed and intensity, having locked up home court through the playoffs.

The first quarter was competitive, but the Knicks took control in the second with a 19-0 run, building a 21-point lead at the break.

Game over.

The second half was a 24-minute coast and the icing on another Brunson masterpiece.

Josh Hart added 16 points and 16 rebounds for the Knicks against the Celtics on Thursday. AP

Playing just 30 minutes because of the blowout, the point guard fell one point short of joining Carmelo Anthony and Bernard King as the only Knicks to score 40 points or more in three consecutive games.

He shot 15-for-23 — including 6-for-11 from 3-point range — with four assists and two turnovers.

The Knicks outscored Boston by 28 points with Brunson on the court.

“The numbers,” Thibodeau said, “are staggering.”

Brunson beat the Celtics into submission. Trailing by 29, Boston emptied its bench at the end of the third quarter — with Jayson Tatum (15 points), Jaylen Brown (15) and Kristaps Porzingis (14) all watching the remainder from cushioned seats.

“We obviously know that they’re the top dog in the East,” Brunson said. “Whenever you play against them, it’s always a good measure to see where you’re at. Obviously we played pretty good tonight. But we know what they’re capable of. We just had their number tonight. But if it comes to a point where we play them again, we know we have our hands full.”

Even Thibodeau sat most of his starters in the fourth quarter — though he looked antsy as the Celtics made a late push to cut the deficit to single-digits. Then he was a little ticked off in his postgame press conference, calling out the group that allowed a gargantuan lead to turn a wee dicey.

Jaylen Brown and the Celtics trailed by 31 points at one point against the Knicks on Thursday. AP

“You got to play 48 minutes, and we didn’t do that,” the coach said. “I don’t wanna see the same mistakes repeated over and over. And I want us to understand there’s a difference in the fourth quarter, and I want us to understand what it is to use good judgment in the fourth quarter. And so, those are things you evaluate, because you’re determining your rotation based on those things. When you say, how do you evaluate a player? That’s really how you evaluate a player.”

Late angst aside, the Knicks dominated. Josh Hart grabbed 16 rebounds with 16 points. Bojan Bogdanovic, finally finding a rhythm after a rough start to his Knicks tenure, added 14 points.

It was the first Knicks win over the Celtics in five tries this season, but Thursday was the first with OG Anunoby.

The defensive stalwart helped thwart Boston’s forwards while scoring 12 points in 26 minutes.

It was just the fourth time the Celtics lost at home this season. And the Knicks finally went home after a 3-1, eight-night road trip.