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Kristian Winfield: Judge Knicks in April, not in February during nail-biting win against league-worst Pistons

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NEW YORK — Judging the Knicks on games played in February is a moot mission.

Reserving judgment for the end of the regular season into the playoffs is a far more appropriate course of action.

It’s easy to get goaded into unreasonable expectations given the bright Madison Square Garden lights blaring onto a team looking to make a deeper playoff run than last year’s second-round appearance.

The roster taking The Garden floors is not one bound for the playoffs — at least not yet.

Tom Thibodeau’s team is one biding time for its stars to return to form. It’s the reason the Knicks lost six of the eight games played entering Monday night’s nail-biter against the Detroit Pistons, who own the league’s worst record with more than six times as many losses (49) as wins (eight) on the season.

The Knicks snoozed their way through the majority of the game, then woke up to a Pistons team sniffing a rare win at Madison Square Garden.

New York trailed by as many as seven, led by as much as 13, and eventually won on a fluke series of no-calls on the game’s final possession, where Donte DiVincenzo ran over Pistons’ rookie Ausar Thompson chasing for a loose ball with eight seconds left and the Knicks down one.

The sequence eventually led to Josh Hart making an and-one layup to put the Knicks up for good.

It was a brutal Knicks performance against a team threatening to go back-to-back as worst in the league.

This team’s struggles are understandable, however, given who is on the injury report.

Julius Randle dislocated his shoulder. OG Anunoby needed elbow surgery. Mitchell Robinson got December ankle surgery, too.

The entire Knicks starting frontcourt is out due to injury with no timetable for return yet provided.

And while Thibodeau preaches next man up in New York, there’s no way to overcome such a steep gap in missing talent.

The Knicks are also folding two new players — Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks— into the game plan after a trade deadline deal with the same Pistons team they played on Monday.

While it’s not quite as dramatic as a recipe for disaster, New York’s current situation is not indicative of the product the organization hopes to carry into the playoffs.

As a reminder, the Knicks won 16 of the 19 games they played after trading R.J. Barrett and Immanuel Quickley to the Toronto Raptors for Anunoby and Precious Achiuwa, including a 12-2 record before both Randle and Anunoby left the rotation on Jan. 27.

During those 14 games between the trade and the injuries, the Knicks owned both the best record in basketball and the NBA’s best defensive rating.

On Monday, they allowed the Pistons — who are the second-worst three-point making team — to shoot 14-of-30 from downtown and close to 50 percent from the deal.

A win is a win, and the Knicks will take them as they come. Jalen Brunson scored 35 points, Hart scored 23 and DiVincenzo added 21 points on five made threes.

For the Pistons, Cade Cunningham scored 32 points and Quentin Grimes scored 14 points in his revenge game, including a pivotal layup to give the Pistons a lead in crunch time.

The lead didn’t last. The Knicks are going to find a way to beat the bad teams because it’s what they’ve done all season.

Unfortunately for New York, nine of the team’s next 11 games are against teams with winning records.

Randle and Anunoby aren’t expected to be back by then, and until the pair of Knicks starters make a triumphant return, it’s necessary to temper expectations for a team holding the fort down until it can get back to full strength.