Closing Rush

Road-heavy March means Pistons need to start fast

The Palace
Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
If the Pistons hope to end their two-year playoff drought, they would do well to get out of the gate fast in 2011-12. The schedule won’t do them any favors late, when the Pistons finish by playing 12 of their final 18 on the road.

That includes a brutal March stretch in which the Pistons play nine of 10 games away from The Palace. It starts with a five-game, 10-day Western road trip that sees them visit Utah, Sacramento, Phoenix, the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver. After a brief Palace layover to face the Cleveland Cavaliers on a Friday night, the Pistons hit the road again for an unusual four-game Eastern Conference road trip to New York, Washington, Cleveland and Chicago.

That 10-game stretch includes only one back-to-back set – the Friday night Cleveland home game is followed by a Saturday date at New York. The Pistons will play 19 back-to-back sets in 2011-12, split almost evenly among the four variations. They’ll play four back to backs with both games at home and five each of home-road, road-home and road-road back-to-back sets.

The Pistons will open the season at home on Wednesday, Nov. 2 against Central Division rival Indiana, coming off a season in which the young Pacers qualified for the playoffs.

The Pistons will play the most home games, nine, in the shortest month, February, then play 10 of their 16 March games on the road. Both November and December feature 15 games, eight at home. January also includes 15 games, six at home, with 14 games scheduled for February. The Pistons play four of their seven April games at home with the season winding up in Charlotte on April 18.

The 82-game schedule that features 30 games against Western Conference opponents – the Pistons play each Western team once at home, once on the road – requires each NBA team to play four of its 14 conference opponents three times instead of the four it plays the other 10.

The two Eastern teams that will visit The Palace only once next season are Miami (Dec. 4) and New York (Nov. 6). The two Eastern teams the Pistons will visit only once are Atlanta (Feb. 29) and Toronto (Dec. 21).

Dallas, the reigning NBA champions, makes its only appearance at The Palace on Feb. 8. The Los Angeles Lakers will visit on March 9.

The home schedule is heavy with weekend dates with 31 of the 41 Palace games falling either on Friday (15), Saturday (6) or Sunday (10). The Pistons also will play six Tuesday and four Wednesday games at The Palace. On the road, Wednesday is the Pistons’ most frequent game day with 15 scheduled games.