Though cutting short some fond memories on NBA TV’s Indiana Pacers Day, the release of the 2018-19 NBA schedule will set the stage for some new ones in the upcoming winter. The release itself is especially interesting for Pacers fans, who were shut out of any teaser dates when the league announced its tip-off and Christmas schedules on Wednesday.
That absence, while not shocking for Christmas, did lend a level of disappointment in the chance to see the Pacers competing on the national stage after last season’s success. In fact, the Pacers were just one of five playoff teams from a season ago who weren’t featured on either day and two of those teams, San Antonio and Cleveland, lost their best players in the offseason.
Whatever frustration felt from that initial schedule reveal proved short lived, however, as the Pacers will be featured on 12 nationally televised games this upcoming season.
The most notable among these games is that all four matchups against the Philadelphia 76ers will be a national showcase. That includes one of three TNT games and an ABC afternoon showcase on Sunday, March 10. For those who tune in nightly for the Fox Sports Indiana broadcast with Chris Denari and Quinn Buckner, the TNT and ABC games will not be aired on Fox Sports, but the ESPN matchups will.
Beyond those 12 games, the Pacers will have 70 additional matchups between October and April, starting on October 17, hosting the Memphis Grizzlies. That will lead into the first back-to-back of the season, traveling to Milwaukee to face the Bucks and heading home to play the Brooklyn Nets.
It will be the first of 14 back-to-backs for the Pacers, the same as the year before and a tick above the league average for this upcoming season as the NBA continues to work towards minimizing those games. The frequency is more balanced this season for the Pacers, who had their lion’s share prior to the All-Star Break. They’ll feature 2-3 every month from November to March.
The second nights will feature their own difficulties, with five games coming against playoff teams, including two against the Boston Celtics, road games against the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors, and hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves on February 28.
Another difficult back-to-back will be on February 5 when the Pacers host the Los Angeles Lakers. It will be the lone visit for LeBron James in the 2018-19 season, making it a must see if you felt like the five playoff matchups between 2012-2018 weren’t enough. It will wrap up the season series against James and the Lakers, the first matchup coming on November 29 in Los Angeles.
That game will be part of Indiana’s first trip out West, a four game swing against the Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns, Lakers, and Sacramento Kings. It will be one of two four game West Coast trips, the latter coming in mid-March, when the Pacers face the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers, Los Angeles Clippers, and Golden State Warriors in an especially difficult stretch that will feature seven of eight against playoff opponents.
Neither will be the longest road trips of the season, however. That will come just after the new year in a five game, eight day Northeastern trip from January 4-11. A six day trip to the Southeast will take place from January 30-February 4. The Pacers will actually be tasked with a road heavy schedule early, playing six of their first nine games away from the Fieldhouse.
The schedule will skew home heavy in mid-January, a five game stand from January 15-23 and again in early February, a six game stretch that will bookend the All-Star Break. The Pacers will play five straight at home leading into the All-Star Break from February 5-13 and again on the 22. It should help the Pacers get rested up for a late season stretch that will feature 13 of their final 23 on the road.
Regarding individual games to look out for, the Pacers will have a real opportunity to win the Central Division this year, with their main rival for that title being Milwaukee. The Pacers will face them on the road on October 19 and March 7 while hosting the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Bucks on December 12 and February 13.
The dark horse in the division will be the Detroit Pistons. If the Pacers have to contend within the division with Detroit, those games will take on extra significance, with all four taking place after Christmas Day. The first matchup, December 28 will be a home game before traveling to Little Caesars Arena on February 25. The two teams will be play a home and home on April 1 and 3.
Beyond the Central Division matchups, some notable home dates include:
- Boston Celtics, November 3 & April 5
- Denver Nuggets, March 24
- Golden State Warriors, January 28
- Houston Rockets, November 5
- Los Angeles Lakers, February 5
- Minnesota Timberwolves, February 28
- New Orleans Pelicans, February 22
- Oklahoma City Thunder, March 14
- Philadelphia 76ers, November 7 & January 17
- Portland Trail Blazers, October 29
- San Antonio Spurs, November 23
- Toronto Raptors, January 23
- Utah Jazz, November 19
- Washington Wizards, December 10 & December 23
In a league where everyone plays within four games of the same schedule, the Pacers don’t catch any particular breaks in theirs, playing everyone in the East four times except the Nets, Hornets, Heat, and Raptors. Both the Toronto and Miami series will feature two on the road and one at home.
As always, however, it’s always about when you play a team. The Pacers were able to sweep the Warriors last season due to their late schedule appearance. They can hope the same luck befalls them this year, but with the roster moves, it will ultimately come down to whether the Pacers can match the intensity they played with last season.
Effort is such a big advantage across an 82-game season. There were nights where the Pacers were off, but never a night they took off. That will need to carry over if they hope to have a successful encore to last year’s campaign. As noted with numerous national showcases, more eyes will be on them this year, it will be harder to fly under the radar.