Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown gestures in the first half...

Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown gestures in the first half against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

We will not get the most important verdict on how the Knicks match up against the Celtics until a potential playoff series in May. But for now, we have our regular-season answer: Not well.

Boston’s 116-102 win at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night improved the Celtics to 4-0 against the Knicks this season, with one game left on April 11.

There is no shame in that. The Celtics (45-12) have the best record in the NBA and a deep, balanced, healthy lineup. The Knicks (34-23) still are hampered by key injuries. But that does not change the fact that for the Knicks and the rest of the Eastern Conference, the road to the NBA Finals goes through Boston, and it looks like a rocky one.

“They’re good for a reason,” said Jalen Brunson, who had 34 points and nine assists. “We just have to be better.”

Said coach Tom Thibodeau, “You can’t let your guard down for a second. They’re a terrific offensive team.”

Jaylen Brown paced the Celtics with 30 points and former Knick Kristaps Porzingis had 22. Six players scored in double figures for Boston, which shot 68.4% from the field and 55.6% from three-point range while scoring 97 points in the first three quarters.

The Celtics led 30-26 after the first quarter, in which Brunson scored 13 points, and 62-58 at halftime as the undermanned Knicks were their usual scrappy selves against the more potent visitors. Early in the third quarter, a three-point play by Brunson made it 64-64, and it looked as if the Celtics were in for a battle to the finish.

But Boston’s versatile attack and hot shooting were too much to overcome. The Celtics led 67-66 when back-to-back-to-back three-pointers by Porzingis, Jayson Tatum and Brown extended the lead to 76-66.

Josh Hart (16 points) blamed himself for the first two defensive breakdowns. “We have to communicate better; I have to communicate better,” he said. “That run started with my mistakes and I just have to get better.”

Said Thibodeau, “We got hit with a barrage of threes. Some of those were just the communication wasn’t what it needed to be. You just can’t afford to have a stretch where you give up three threes in a game that is tight.”

The lead ballooned to 97-77 late in the third quarter, at which point the Celtics’ field-goal percentage was 70.9.

“They hit us with threes and it gave them a cushion and we were playing from behind from there,” Thibodeau said. “Against a team like that, you’re going to have to play 48 minutes of really good basketball. We didn’t do that tonight.”

The Knicks’ relentless offensive rebounding was the only thing keeping them somewhat in contention. They finished with 15 offensive rebounds, five by Isaiah Hartenstein.

The Knicks got within 99-90 to make things briefly interesting, but the Celtics scored 10 straight points to repel the threat.

Asked about dealing with the Celtics’ multiple weapons, Brunson said, “It’s definitely difficult. But you have to step up to the challenge. I have to be better, plain and simple, from a vocal leader standpoint to not turning the ball over, being a better decision-maker.”

Before the game, Thibodeau said his injured starting front line of Mitchell Robinson, Julius Randle and OG Anunoby is back on the practice court and “making good, steady progress. Hopefully soon, they’ll be back.”

Of Randle, who dislocated his right shoulder on Jan. 27, the coach said, “He’s working on his conditioning. He’s got to meet all the markers and then he’ll start ramping up with the contact. And then once he’s cleared, he’s cleared.

“So you trust that to the medical [staff] and the player. So Julius has a say, but the doctors and your medical staff, they’re involved with that as well.”

Once Randle is cleared medically, Thibodeau said, “You can take it step-by-step from there.”

Then will come the biggest step of all: Figuring out how to beat the Celtics.

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