Pelicans national TV games include six on ESPN, two on TNT

The New Orleans Pelicans’ first home game of the 2017-18 regular season will be televised to a nationwide audience. That’s also the case for DeMarcus Cousins’ first game back in his former NBA home.

An Oct. 20 home opener vs. Golden State and an Oct. 26 visit to Sacramento are among the highlights of New Orleans’ eight-game national TV slate, split between ESPN (6) and TNT (2). The eight broadcasts are an increase from the club’s 2016-17 schedule, on which the Pelicans were allocated five such games.

Here is the list of New Orleans games that will be available to fans across the country, via two of the NBA’s network partners:

Oct. 20 vs. Golden State (ESPN)

Oct. 26 at Sacramento (TNT)

Nov. 17 at Denver (ESPN)

Jan. 26 vs. Houston (ESPN)

March 6 at L.A. Clippers (TNT)

March 30 at Cleveland (ESPN)

April 4 vs. Memphis (ESPN)

April 9 at L.A. Clippers (ESPN)

On paper, a difficult start

Every NBA team wants to start quickly when the regular season begins, but based on recent history, that goal is an even higher priority for New Orleans. The Pelicans started 0-6 and 0-8, respectively, at the outset of the previous two campaigns, digging a hole they were never able to overcome, en route to missing the playoffs.

If the Pelicans are to reverse a recent negative trend in 2017-18, it will not be easy, at least on paper. Not only does New Orleans open the 82-game docket with eight road games out of its first dozen total contests, but among the four home games are dates vs. defending conference champions Golden State and Cleveland. The group of road opponents during that early-season stretch includes five teams that reached the NBA playoffs in the spring (though postseason qualifiers Chicago and Indiana vastly changed direction in the offseason).

Partly due to various scheduling conflicts in the neighboring Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Pelicans’ regular season docket is almost always back-loaded with home games. The ’17-18 schedule is no different, with New Orleans playing 15 of its final 26 games in the Smoothie King Center.

Back-to-backs reduced by four

The NBA has made numerous efforts in recent years to reduce wear and tear caused by the schedule, with the most prominent change coming from moving up the start of the regular season by one week. As a result, the league was able to slice two back-to-backs off New Orleans’ docket in comparison to the ’16-17 season. The Pelicans played a total of 17 back-to-backs last season, but that number is down to 13 this time. In addition, based on the fact that New Orleans has a pair of weekend back-to-backs in the Smoothie King Center, its number of back-to-backs that include travel is just 11.

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