Pistons Remaining Schedule Amongst Toughest in East

The playoffs: a foreign land for the Detroit Pistons and its fans since the last decade. As it currently stands, there’s an entire faction of teens and young adults whose full recollection of the Chauncey, Ben, and Sheed championship era is, “Yeah, seems like it was cool – I was only eight at the time so I don’t really remember.”

That foreign connection with the postseason could change this year, as Reggie Jackson and the new-look Pistons currently stand 1.5 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East with 25 games remaining. But allow us to take a step deeper. What does the Pistons’ remaining schedule look like? How many games on the road? How many back-to-backs? And against whom?

Thankfully, the folks over at Hangtime New Jersey already did all the leg work for us. Here’s their breakdown created last week just before the end of the All-Star break:

Strength of Schedule

In this particular interpretation, the Pistons rank third in the East in schedule toughness according to adjusted average opponent NetRtg (a simplified way of saying “opponent’s point differential per 100 possessions adjusted for whether they’re coming off a road game and/or second game of a back-to-back”). As an example of adjusted NetRtg at work, author John Schuhmann illustrated two extremes:

The toughest game a team could play would be vs. the Warriors (+12.3) at Oracle Arena (+2.6) on the second night of a back-to-back, when the Warriors didn’t play the night before (+2.3). Nine different teams, including the Spurs on Friday, play such games.

The easiest game would be vs. the Sixers (-10.3) at home (-2.6), with rest and with Philly playing the second night of a back-to-back (-2.3).

Not that complicated, right? Here’s a few other Pistons schedule fun facts of note:

  • They have eight back-to-backs remaining in their final 25 games, second only to Charlotte’s nine, who happens to be battling Detroit for that final playoff position.
  • Their opponent’s winning percentage (.501) is also second in the conference.
  • Detroit had 14 games against teams standing above .500 when play restarted a week ago, pretty much right smack dab in the median for such contests (Brooklyn had 16, New York just 12). The Pistons have already faced three teams with records above .500 since the break (going 2-1), so that number now stands at 11. That means 14 of their final 25 games will come against teams with records under .500.
  • Even with 14 sub-.500 opponents left on the schedule, the Pistons’ strength of schedule persists as they will only catch five of their opponents on the back end of a back-to-back. For comparison, the Miami Heat, currently holding down the 7th seed in the East, will play 12 games against opponents coming off of a game the night before (an often underrated factor when considering a team’s potential effectiveness).

Of course, it’s all relative. The Pistons NetRtg of 0.2, good enough for third in the East, would rank 12th in the West. A little depressing if you think about it.

What’s it all mean? Well, if Tayshaun Prince and Reggie Jackson can gel just right, and if the Pistons can capitalize on their six games against the now Derrick Rose-less, Chris Bosh-less, and Carmelo Anthony-less Bulls, Heat, and Knicks, that postseason dream could finally become a reality.

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