Detroit Pistons: Five games to watch in the upcoming season

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 08: Reggie Jackson
DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 08: Reggie Jackson /

The full schedule for the NBA’s 2018-19 season has finally been released to the public, revealing a number of key matchups for the Detroit Pistons.

Everything begins for the Detroit Pistons on October 17 as they take on the Brooklyn Nets at Little Ceasars Arena.

Opening night is always a massive occasion, particularly for a franchise like the Pistons.

With fan support extremely hard to come by and playoff games a rare occurrence in recent years, season openers have often been the biggest and grandest stage they have had a chance to play on.

This was the case last season when they kicked off the season against the Charlotte Hornets in their newly opened arena.

A reported 20,491 fans filled Little Ceasars Arena to see a new era of Pistons basketball begin as they defeated the Charlotte Hornets 102-90.

Tobias Harris poured in 27 points and pulled down 10 rebounds that night, which unfortunately ended up being one of the higher points of last year.

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However, with a new head coach and the prospect of an entire 81-game season for Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson to work together, there is an air of optimism around the team.

With the team’s expectations firmly set on the playoffs, here are five games to mark on your calendar that will be extra important as they attempt to return to the post-season.

December 1, Golden State Warriors @ Detroit Pistons

There are a few games on the Pistons’ docket early in the season that will be a great litmus test for the team.

Back-to-back games against the Boston Celtics in October and a few meetings with the Philadelphia 76’ers will be very telling for where they stand in the Eastern Conference.

However, the greatest test for any NBA team at the moment is how they perform against the Golden State Warriors.

What makes this matchup even bigger is that Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green will be inside Little Ceasars Arena on December 1, the only time all season that will happen.

The Pistons only get two opportunities to play the Warriors per season and only once chance for local fans to see them in person, so an occasion like this is always huge.

There is also the added drama of Reggie Jackson and Kevin Durant despising each other.

This feud goes all the way back to the duo’s time together at the Oklahoma City Thunder and was worsened in 2016.

Fans haven’t forgotten Durant’s childish comments in the wake of Reggie Jackson leading the Pistons to a victory over the Thunder that essentially assured the team it would make the playoffs.

I’d wager that Jackson and most of the Pistons haven’t forgotten this either.

Additionally, this game is also part of a crucial homestand period where the Pistons will play eight of nine games at Little Ceasars Arena.

It doesn’t get much bigger than that.

December 3, Oklahoma City Thunder @ Detroit Pistons

Also part of the Pistons’ crucial late November to early December homestand, this game against the Oklahoma City Thunder is notable for many of the same reasons.

Arguably, there is more bad blood between Reggie Jackson and Russell Westbrook.

Most of Jackson’s grievances at the Thunder stemmed from his unrealistic desire to be the team’s starting point guard, something that turned almost the entire team against him.

If excerpts from Steven Adams‘ recently released book are anything to go by it seems that it got so bad he had literally no friends left on the team by the time he was traded.

Adams also claims that the Thunder “forgot about him pretty quickly,” but if recent matchups between the two teams are anything to go by Westbrook definitely hasn’t forgotten.

Last season Jackson was part of the Pistons team that defeated the Thunder 99-98 on the road, but unfortunately missed their second matchup through injury.

Hopefully this season we get to see Jackson and Westbrook go at each other at Little Ceasars Arena this time around.

A full-health fired up Reggie Jackson in front of a Pistons home crowd going toe-to-toe against Russell Westbrook is must-see television.

December 7, Philadelphia 76’ers @ Detroit Pistons

Regardless of who they were playing, Pistons fans would be marking December 7 on their calendar purely because it’s their first nationally televised game of the season.

The Pistons will only have four opportunities to perform in front of a national audience during the 2018-19 season, and with a history of terrible performances on this big stage, their game against the Philadelphia 76’ers is the perfect chance to turn it around.

This game is the third time the Pistons play the Sixers for the season, and just three days later on December 10, the two teams will meet for the fourth and final time before we’ve even reached the new year.

Not only do the Sixers have an incredibly exciting team full of young talent, but the trash-talking from Joel Embiid to Andre Drummond last season makes this a game to not miss.

The Pistons were swept in the season series and Embiid outplaying Drummond the three times they faced each other (Embiid missed the final game).

After the first game in the season series, he trashed Drummond’s defence, with Drummond responding to the comments on Twitter.

This prompted Embiid to continue the trash-talk ahead of their second matchup, this time talking about Drummond’s lack of shooting.

Not to be outdone, Drummond responds by bringing notice to the fact that Embiid can’t play back-to-backs.

The fire being thrown between the two even carried over to the team’s fanbases on Twitter, so you can be sure that with this game being televised on ESPN there is sure to be a handful of memorable moments here.

January 9, Detroit Pistons @ Los Angeles Lakers

Having spent 11 seasons playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons fans have become accustomed to seeing LeBron James at least four times every season.

However, with his move out to the Western Conference, the Pistons will only play him twice this season.

This doesn’t make the matchups any less meaningful though.

Not only do the Pistons have a storied history with LeBron, but they also have a longtime rivalry with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Whether it’s the Bad Boy Pistons knocking off the Magic Johnson-led Lakers or the Goin’ to Work crew upsetting the superteam Lakers in 2004, these two teams have been linked together constantly.

Naturally, the coming together of the biggest name in the NBA and the biggest franchise in the NBA who both have past rivalries with the Pistons makes this a huge game.

Add in new head coach Dwane Casey, who also has had plenty of dealings with LeBron and the fact that he’s touted Stanley Johnson as LeBron’s best matchup and you have a whole lot of narratives going into this game.

To top it all off, this game is also being shown on ESPN.

April 1, Detroit Pistons @ Indiana Pacers/ April 3, Indiana Pacers @ Detroit Pistons

This is slightly cheating by bundling these games together as one, but they shape as being hugely important in shaping the Eastern Conference playoff standings.

Indiana proved critics wrong last season on their way to a 48-34 record and fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings.

They’ll be looking to improve even more this season, while the Pistons will be expecting nothing less than post-season action.

With that taken into account, these back-to-back games against the Pacers shape as huge and potentially season-defining matchups for the Pistons.

Two games against not only a conference rival but a Central Division rival late in the season too means these are arguably two of the most important games the Pistons will play all season.

The Pistons have played well against the Pacers recently, taking an impressive 3-1 season series win over their divisional rivals last season.

You can bet a lot of eyes will be on this game in the final week of the season.