AUBURN HILLS – The Charlotte Hornets helped the Pistons open The Palace 29 years ago and now they’ll help them christen Little Caesars Arena. When the Pistons debut in their new home on Oct. 18 to tip off their 2017-18 season, it will again be the Hornets on the other bench.
The Pistons won their Palace debut against Charlotte 94-85 on Nov. 5, 1988 and went on to win their first NBA championship after going 63-19 in the regular season. Stan Van Gundy wouldn’t mind extending the parallels to 1988 beyond the common theme of hosting Charlotte to open a new building.
The Pistons will play eight of their first 13 games at their new downtown arena but then nine of 11 and 18 of their next 28 on the road to complete the first half of the season in mid-January. Starting with a Little Caesars date with Washington on Jan. 19, the Pistons will play 13 of 15 games at home over the next 35 days, spanning the eight-day All-Star break from Feb. 15-22.
They’ll turn around and play 11 of their next 14 on the road, including the season’s longest road trip by a good margin – a 10-day, six-game trip that takes the Pistons to Utah, Denver, Portland, Sacramento, Phoenix and Houston.
The Pistons will play 14 back-to-back sets this season, the first since commissioner Adam Silver pushed for an earlier start to the season – and a subsequent reduction in preseason games – to spread the 82 games out over more days. This year’s season opener comes eight days before last season’s Oct. 26 beginning.
The NBA announced last week that the average team would play 14.4 back-to-back sets this season after averaging 16.3 last season. The Pistons played 18 back to backs last season and went just 4-14 on the second night, a significant reason they slipped from 44 wins and the playoffs to 37 and the lottery. The NBA also eliminated four games in five nights this season. The Pistons played one such stretch last season, losing to Milwaukee in overtime on the fifth night.
Among the highlights of the Little Caesars home schedule is a Dec. 8 visit from defending NBA champion Golden State. Reigning Eastern Conference champion Cleveland’s two visits will come Nov. 20 and Jan. 30, the latter scheduled as the Pistons lone appearance on TNT’s national schedule. The Pistons also have three national ESPN telecasts scheduled, all at home: the Golden State game, against Washington Jan. 19 and against Toronto March 7. In addition, the Pistons have four games to be telecast on NBA TV, including a Martin Luther King Jr. matinee when they’ll host Charlotte on Jan. 15.
Wednesdays will be the busiest day of the week for the Pistons with 10 Little Caesars dates and seven road games. The Pistons will play nine of their 16 Friday games at Little Caesars, six of their 13 Saturdays there and four of their 11 Sunday games at home. March and December will be the busiest months with 15 games each. January will see the Pistons play 14 games and they’ll play as many in February (12) as in November despite the All-Star break thrown into the year’s shortest month.
The Pistons will play both Los Angeles teams during a three-game October road trip, though they curiously have a date at Golden State on Oct. 29 separating their games with the Clippers and Lakers. They’ll also play both the Knicks and Nets during a back-to-back set in New York March 31-April 1.
The four Eastern Conference teams the Pistons will play only three times – they play all four of their Central Division rivals four times, plus three of the five teams in both the Atlantic and Southeast divisions – are New York, Boston, Charlotte and Orlando. The Knicks and Magic will visit Little Caesars Arena just once each.