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Taking a closer look at the 2018-19 Pistons schedule

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Is this the schedule of an Eastern conference playoff team?

NBA: Washington Wizards at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

First things first: Here is the full 2018-2019 schedule for the Detroit Pistons, who open the regular season on October 17 against the Brooklyn Nets, close the regular season on April 10 against the New York Knicks, and have 80 games in the middle to try and figure out how to be a playoff team. If looking through the schedule on that link doesn’t help you at all (like me), here’s a visual:

On an initial pass, the schedule seems pretty fair. Detroit’s longest road trip is five games (that West Coast swing in March with a game in Cleveland stamped on), their longest homestand is six games (at the tail end of November and into December), and home and road games are pretty interspersed. They don’t have any months like March of 2018, where they played five home games and 10 (!) road games; even with the five-game road trip in March, the difference in home and away games in each month is never more than two.

However, there do look to be some very difficult stretches in there - the six-game homestand features the Rockets, Warriors, and Thunder, and the Pistons play six consecutive playoff teams to start the month of December. Reminder: last December, the Pistons lost seven consecutive games to six playoff teams and Denver (as close to a playoff team as you could get) in a stretch I semi-affectionately referred to as “Hell Week.” I look forward to Hell Week 2.0 causing mild panic prior to the holidays.

The Pistons also play a road back-to-back (in Atlanta and Miami) immediately following the All-Star break, and don’t have nearly the pillow-soft schedule down the stretch that they had last season.

Speaking of back-to-backs, Detroit has thirteen back-to-backs this season, below the NBA average (13.3), one fewer than last year, and, notably, FIVE fewer than 2016-17, where the Pistons played 18 back-to-backs and went 4-14. Additionally, the Pistons never have a stretch of four games in five nights, and never have a stretch of eight games in 12 nights - the NBA has eliminated both from the schedule entirely. That’s fantastic news - less tired players should make for fewer injuries and more interesting games.

Individual games of note include the following:

  • November 14: Dwane Casey’s return to Toronto
  • December 28: Reggie Jackson attempts to not get injured against the Pacers right after Christmas (again)
  • January 12: Blake Griffin’s first game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles
  • February 13: Andre Drummond’s annual 20-20 game in TD Garden
  • March 6: Andre Drummond’s semi-annual beatdown of Karl-Anthony Towns (I don’t know what Karl did, but it must’ve been HEINOUS)

Also, here are the four times the Pistons are on ESPN:

I expect the National TV Pistons to lose most of those games.

Jared Dubin, formerly of CBS Sports, estimates the Pistons have the 22nd-hardest (or eight-easiest, depending on how you want to look at it) schedule in the NBA:

With that in mind, I currently have the Pistons winning 43 games:

In this scenario, the Pistons start the season slow, losing a home-and-home with Boston within the first two weeks of the season, and suffer during Hell Week 2.0 before the schedule softens up. They should find their wind at the end of December through the beginning of January, against the likes of Orlando, Atlanta, and Charlotte.

Four back-to-backs in March alongside the longest road trip of the season offers a lot of potential for the Pistons to fade down the stretch, which is why it’s important for them to beat a lot of the lesser teams they’ll face in January. That home-and-home series with the Pacers to begin April could be big for the Pistons’ playoff chances as well - those two teams could be jockeying one another for positioning at that point in the year.

Does looking at the schedule affect how you think the Pistons will perform this year? Which games will you try to attend (I’m staring at that December game against Atlanta, myself)? Let us know in the comments.