Casey’s return to Toronto, Griffin’s to LA dot Pistons 2018-19 schedule

Dwane Casey spent seven seasons as Toronto’s coach and the NBA’s reigning Coach of the Year will return as Pistons coach on Nov. 14.
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

AUBURN HILLS – Whatever emotion Dwane Casey is feeling about his return trip to Toronto – anticipation, anxiety, nervousness, joy – it won’t take long to be realized.

The Pistons make only one trip across the border for the 2018-19 season – Washington is the other Eastern Conference team the Pistons will visit just once – and that will come in the season’s 13th game, Nov. 14.

Casey spent seven seasons with the Raptors, posting a .573 winning percentage (320-238) and averaging 52.6 wins over the past five years. After leading them to a franchise-best 59 wins in 2017-18 before losing to Cleveland a third straight season in the second round of the playoffs, Casey – voted Coach of the Year – was fired by the Raptors. Casey’s 320 career wins are more than twice as many as the No. 2 on the list, Sam Mitchell.

The Raptors will visit Little Caesars Arena twice, March 3 and March 17. Two of the teams expected to battle Toronto for the top spot in the East, Philadelphia (Oct. 23) and Boston (Oct. 27) make early visits to the Pistons.

The two Eastern Conference opponents that will visit Little Caesars only once are Brooklyn and Atlanta.

The NBA’s focus on reducing the number of back-to-back sets and clumps of games means the Pistons will play 13 back to backs, down from 14 last season and as many as 22 in recent seasons.

The range of back to backs for NBA teams next season is 12 to 15 with the average at 13.3. The Pistons will be at a disadvantage on 11 occasions – playing a back to back against a team that was off the night before – as opposed to having the advantage in eight such situations.

Another homecoming worth circling: Jan. 12. That will be the first game for Blake Griffin as a visiting player against the Clippers. It comes in the middle of a four-game road trip that starts with a game against LeBron James and the Lakers, which will be Griffin’s first game at Staples Center in something other than a Clippers uniform.

James and the Lakers make the return trip on March 15. Among other marquee games at Little Caesars Arena, the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors come to Detroit on Dec. 1.

The home schedule will be saturated with weekend dates – the Lakers visit comes on a Friday, Golden State’s on a Saturday – next season with 21 of the 41 dates falling on Friday (six), Saturday (seven) or Sunday (eight).

The busiest day of the calendar for the Pistons will be Wednesday, when they’ll play 19 of their games – but only five of those will come at home. One of them is the Oct. 17 regular-season opener against Brooklyn. The Pistons first road game comes three nights later at Chicago.

January and March will be the busiest months with 16 games apiece, while November (12) will be the lightest. The Pistons don’t play a single back to back in November, though they close the month with the first leg of a back to back that concludes with the Warriors’ visit Dec. 1.

Six of the 13 back to backs will come after the All-Star break in the season’s final 26 games, four of them in a 23-day stretch of March that sees the Pistons play 13 games.

One schedule quirk: The Pistons wrap up their season series with Houston in a road-home sequence that sandwiches Thanksgiving Day, playing at Houston on Nov. 21 and hosting the Rockets on Nov. 23.

The longest road trip of the season comes in March when the Pistons visit Cleveland March 18 and then stop in Phoenix, Portland, Golden State and Denver, concluding there on March 28. They’ll have two four-game excursions surrounding a two-game home stand that begins in late December with a trip to Indiana, Orlando, Milwaukee and Memphis followed by a January trek to Los Angeles (Lakers), Sacramento, Los Angeles (Clippers) and Utah.

The Pistons have four national TV games scheduled, all on ESPN: Dec. 7 vs. Philadelphia, Jan. 9 at the Los Angeles Lakers, Feb. 27 at San Antonio and March 13 at Miami. They play a Martin Luther King Jr. matinee at Washington on Jan. 19.