They are basketball chameleons, these Knicks, and that isn’t necessarily a compliment. Sometimes they can grind you — that’s what really beat the Celtics, after all, the defensive commitment, the ability to hold the Celtics to 25- and 26- and 27-point halves, to say nothing of the gritty, if inelegant, way they avoided collapsing under the weight of that 20-0 surge the other night.

Sometimes they look like the basketball equivalent of a finesse pitcher, working the corners, settling for jumpers, sometimes hitting them in bunches, sometimes missing them in torrents, sometimes looking like they can drop 130 points on you, sometimes making you wonder if they can even reach 70.

There is one constant, though.

When Tyson Chandler is fully engaged, and when he is fully healthy, when he is making athletic plays that no man who stands 7-foot-1 should ever be able to make, when he’s imposing his will on defense and moving with the grace of an above-the-rim acrobat on offense …

Well. Those are the moments, those are the games, those are the stretches of season when the Knicks really do look like something more than a team that can be a sparring partner for contention, and can be a genuine contender instead. We’ve seen that version of Chandler sparingly this year, often due to injury or illness, sometimes because the Knicks simply don’t rely on him as much as other teams do on their bigs.

And sometimes for no good explanation at all. Just because.

“The Tyson we saw the last two games against Boston is the Tyson that was there for us before he got hurt,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said yesterday, as he piloted the quick turnaround between Game 6 in Boston and Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals with the Pacers, which tip off today at 3:30 at Madison Square Garden.