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Taking a closer look at the 2017-18 Pistons schedule

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How favorable (or grueling) is the Pistons’ schedule this season?

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Here is the full 2016-2017 schedule for the Detroit Pistons. The team will open the season Wednesday, Oct. 18, at the brand-new Little Caesars Arena, against the Charlotte Hornets, mirroring the opening of The Palace of Auburn Hills (where they also played the Hornets in the opening game).

They then immediately play their first of 14 back-to-backs, Friday against the Wizards and Saturday against the Knicks, both on the road. Fourteen back-to-backs sounds like a lot, but is actually under the new, lower league average. For comparison, last season the Pistons played 18 back-to-backs, going 4-14. Also notable is the complete omission of any four-games-in-five-nights stretches - the NBA has made eliminating those a priority, and no team has any such stretch this season.

The Pistons have one TNT game, three ESPN games, and four NBATV games for a grand total of eight nationally televised games this season. You can already chalk up those eight games as losses (kidding. Kinda). Eight games is definitely on the low side for an NBA team, but as a mid-market non-playoff team, it’s not a surprise the Pistons aren’t dominating TNT Thursdays.

If, like me, you only come back to Michigan to visit family on Thanksgiving and Christmas, the schedule aligns... decently. The Pistons are on the road (at OKC, at Boston) for Thanksgiving week, but home against New York the weekend before Christmas and home against Indiana the day after Christmas. If my wife is reading, that Knicks game would make for a great early Christmas present...

There’s a six-game homestand in the beginning of February, but it comes at the cost of four games in seven nights against a bunch of playoff contenders:

Tue. Jan. 30 Cleveland 8:00 p.m, on TNT (Cleveland on TNT? That’s a GUARANTEED loss)
Thu. Feb. 1 Memphis 7:00 p.m.
Sat. Feb. 3 Miami 7:00 p.m.
Mon. Feb. 5 Portland 7:00 p.m.
Wed. Feb. 7 Brooklyn 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Feb. 9 L.A. Clippers 7:00 p.m.

There’s also the usual “Oh God Why” six-game West Coast trip, which includes the Utah-Denver Elevation Devastation and a Sacremento-Phoenix back-to-back:

Tue. Mar. 13 at Utah 9:00 p.m.
Thu. Mar. 15 at Denver 9:00 p.m.
Sat. Mar. 17 at Portland 10:00 p.m.
Mon. Mar. 19 at Sacramento 10:00 p.m.
Tue. Mar. 20 at Phoenix 10:00 p.m. (B2B)
Thu. Mar. 22 at Houston 8:00 p.m.

The Pistons close the season with a nice balance of home and road games - If Detroit isn’t knocked out of the playoff hunt after the west coast trip, this closing slate offers them the chance to finish strong (home games in BOLD):

Sat. Mar. 24 Chicago 7:00 p.m.
Mon. Mar. 26 L.A. Lakers 7:00 p.m.
Thu. Mar 29 Washington 7:00 p.m.
Sat. Mar. 31 at New York 5:00 p.m.
Sun. Apr. 1 at Brooklyn 6:00 p.m. (B2B)
Wed. Apr. 4 Philadelphia 7:00 p.m.
Fri. Apr. 6 Dallas 7:00 p.m.
Sun. Apr. 8 at Memphis 3:30 p.m, on NBA TV
Mon. Apr. 9 Toronto 7:00 p.m. (B2B)
Wed. Apr. 11 at Chicago 8:00 p.m.

The Bulls, Lakers, Knicks, and Nets should all be not trying to win games this late in the season, so strong efforts against those teams hopefully can ensure the Pistons make the playoffs.

Ultimately, the schedule tells you who you’re playing and when, not how you’ll play or how they’ll play. Overall, this looks like a fairly temperate schedule for the Pistons - one they will have to take advantage of to make the playoffs in a soft Eastern conference.