You know we've come somewhere in the first 18 games of this Knicks season when the initial reaction to Sunday's 125-116 double overtime win over the Pistons is that things shouldn't have to be that difficult.
A year ago, wins were treated like stumbling across animals that were thought to be on the brink of extinction. You didn't nitpick the way they smelled or the fact that there really isn't anything particularly impressive about the song of the green-backed whipporwhill, you just appreciated their existence and hoped that you'd come across more of them in the future.
Now, though, the bar is higher and that's a good thing. Simply winning games doesn't exempt the Knicks from a critical eye any longer, something that can make games more frustrating while you're watching them but makes for a much happier general state of affairs. Sunday's game was a perfect example of the new reality.
Watching Amar'e Stoudemire dominate the shell of Ben Wallace employed by the Pistons was thrilling, but it also made you wonder why the team was flinging so many threes at the basket over the course of the game. Stoudemire dropped 37 points on a variety of low-post adventures, too many of which came off isolation plays, but the team seemed to settle on outside shots much too often when their best player was imposing himself on the game so successfully.
Defense was also a big problem. Danilo Gallinari is never going to be Scottie Pippen, but he's got to do a better job than he did at the end of the fourth quarter and first overtime. Up four and three, respectively, Gallinari fouled three times against Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince to let the Pistons tie and extend the game.
But then there's the flip side. Gallo nailed two threes to start the second overtime and the Pistons never recovered. Playing without Ronny Turiaf and Toney Douglas, the Knicks got 50-plus minutes from Gallo, Amar'e, Raymond Felton (battling a stomach bug) and Landry Fields. That kind of effort was remarkable across the board and all four men put forth strong performances under unenviable circumstances.
At the end, it boils down to one simple fact. The Pistons might not be good and the Knicks might not be perfect, but they found a way to win and they're doing that with some regularity this season. For now, that's enough to make the bad recede into the background.