Dallas — Since their seven-game losing streak, the Pistons have had a bit of an easier schedule, with two of their last three wins coming against Eastern Conference teams with losing records.
Including Wednesday’s matchup against the Mavericks, the Pistons’ opponents were just hovering above .500, at best, and their combined record was in the four-game stretch was 52-71. The Mavs, Knicks, Pacers and Magic present a break in the Pistons’ rugged schedule, which ranked second overall after the losing skid.
With weaker opponents, the coming stretch is theoretically a chance for the Pistons to bounce back and build some wins, as they did with their 14-6 start.
Not so fast, coach Stan Van Gundy says.
“You can’t get too caught up in that because if you look at our schedule and tried to pencil in what you thought were wins and losses, you would have been way off,” he said Wednesday. “You play every night and if we play well enough, we have a chance to beat anybody and anybody has a chance to beat us.”
That’s typical coach-speak, but for the Pistons, it’s mostly true. They can play up to the level of some of the elite teams in the league, but also find ways to blow double-digit leads and finish with a nail-biter.
The extended schedule has seven of 11 games on the road, which gets to the 41-game mark with 23 road games. That leaves just 18 games away from Little Caesars Arena in the second half of the season.
The Pistons haven’t gotten to the point where anyone can presume victories over any opponent — or assume losses either. With so many variables, it’s pointless to try to predict how things will turn out.
“You don’t know how people are going to play and how we’re going to play. It’s faulty thinking to say we should go on a good stretch,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t think you would have called the Boston or Golden State games on the road or probably would have thought that we could have at least been in the game against the Lakers on the road.
“Games are played (on the court). We can’t afford to look ahead.”
Anthony Tolliver got his second start of the season Wednesday as the Mavericks went with a bigger starting lineup, with Harrison Barnes, Maxi Kleber and Dirk Nowitzki in their frontcourt. Tolliver also started when the San Antonio Spurs had both LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol starting.
Van Gundy held out on announcing his starting lineup until he found out whether the Mavericks would use a bigger group or play small. The move sent Luke Kennard to the bench, after he had started the previous two games at shooting guard for the injured Avery Bradley.
West might not be best
The talk in the preseason was that the Western Conference would be significantly better than the East, but that hasn’t played out in the first 30 games. In the 194 head-to-head games, the East has posted a 101-93 record to buck the prediction.
“It’s all been pretty close. People underestimated the East. You’ll still hear all the commentators and experts talking about how much better the West is,” Van Gundy said. “The East is just clearly better than people thought going into the year.
“Toronto, Cleveland and Boston have separated themselves and then there are going to be nine teams for the other five spots. It’s going to be a challenge for all of us.”
The Pistons’ record is 7-4 against the West, with marquee wins against the Warriors and Thunder, plus two victories against the Timberwolves.