BOSTON — The Knicks hung around until the circumstances dragged them down.
Against the odds versus the cream of the Eastern Conference, New York was overrun down the stretch by the Celtics and lost Monday night, 114-98, snapping its three-game winning streak because Jayson Tatum (35 points, 17 in the fourth quarter) is a bona fide MVP candidate.
The game’s pivotal sequence occurred with about eight minutes remaining, when the Knicks cut their deficit to three.
Then Josh Hart jumped into a jump-shooting Tatum on the following possession, giving the Celtics a four-point play.
Tom Thibodeau’s squad (5-5) never recovered.
Until further notice, the Knicks are a step below the championship contenders.
To be fair, they were playing without RJ Barrett, arguably the team’s best player to start the campaign — and definitely its most consistent.
He had a migraine and never made it to the Knicks’ bench.
Monday was also the second game of a back-to-back, with the Knicks traveling to Beantown after blasting the Hornets on Sunday at MSG.
So it had the trappings of a schedule loss and — despite Julius Randle declaring “we owe them one” a night earlier — the Knicks obliged by allowing Boston’s high-octane offense to ignite in the fourth quarter.
The Knicks were outscored in the final eight minutes, 23-10, losing to the Celtics (8-2) for the second time this season.
The good news is the five-game road trip, which started here, gets much easier. The next opponents — the Hawks, Wizards, Hornets and Timberwolves — are a step down.
There are also no more back-to-backs on the trip.
Hart started in Barrett’s spot and Thibodeau resisted adding a new player to the rotation, meaning only eight appeared (until garbage time) and the starters logged heavy minutes.
Hart had 16 points in 43 minutes. Randle finished with 25 points on 7 of 19 shooting in 38 minutes.
Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 26 points, but only six in the fourth quarter.
Kristaps Porzingis (21 points) and Jaylen Brown (22) were also impactful contributors for the Celtics.