Everyone knows to expect fireworks when their team matches up against Cleveland, Golden State, San Antonio, and teams of a similar caliber. Whether their squad gets completely outclassed or puts up a dog-fight, the fans get a good look at how they match up with the best basketball teams the world has to offer. But what about the games against lesser-known teams? What if you're the type of fan who gets excited for a Utah/Denver game in the middle of the season? Here are the Top 5 League Pass Games for Detroit fans in the upcoming season:
1. Fri, Oct. 28 vs. the Orlando Magic
Nobody knows what to expect from this Magic team. They just lost Victor Oladipo in exchange for Serge Ibaka, signed Jeff Green and Bismack Biyombo when they already have Aaron Gordon, and might feature Evan Fournier as their No. 1 scorer. They've got a collection of guys that play 100 mph -- Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Biyombo, Mario Hezonja, DJ Augustin -- but a new coach notorious for slowing the pace down to a grind in Frank Vogel. My gut says they're going to be a circus show, with high-flying dunkers and long European wings, wherever they go. Look for their early contest against Detroit to be explosive, ugly, and a whole lot of fun.
2. Sat, Nov. 19 vs. the Boston Celtics
This probably won't be the most aesthetic game of basketball. It'll be the first tilt between the new-look Pistons and the Al Horford Celtics, and both teams will probably take most of the season to really gel. But for those wanting matchup intrigue, look no further. Stan Van Gundy's Pick & Roll machine against Brad Stevens' mad-dog defense? Yes, please. Stanley Johnson head-to-head against his spirit animal Marcus Smart? I need to sit down. The raw Andre Drummond against the uber-polished Al Horford? Strap in, folks.
3. Fri, Dec. 30 vs. the Atlanta Hawks
This is what I like to call the "How Did We Get Here?" Game of the Year. Seven years ago, the Orlando Magic had just swept a LeBron-led Cleveland team to advance to the NBA Finals, and Dwight Howard was dunking on everything in sight -- Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Anderson Varejao, his own teammates, ballboys, vegetable gardens, the Prime Minister of Malaysia (relax). Both he and Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy seemed to be headed for a long partnership filled with deep playoff runs, awkward post moves, and an impenetrable defense. We all know how that turned out. But it still doesn't make sense how it all fell apart. Which is why this Hawks/Pistons game, featuring Dwight in an Atlanta Hawks jersey (his 3rd team post-Orlando) and Stan Van Gundy's Dwight 2.0 aka Andre Drummond, is our 2016-17 "HDWGH" Game of the Year early favorite.
4. Fri, Feb. 3 vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves
They say "styles make fights," and the same holds true for the hardwood. You won't find a more randomly awesome matchup than Pistons/Timberwolves. There are rising stars and hungry role players across the board for both teams -- Karl-Anthony Towns, Andre Drummond, Andrew Wiggins, Stanley Johnson, Zach LaVine, Reggie Jackson, Ricky Rubio, Ish Smith, Kris Dunn, and the list goes on. These two teams are stacked with guys itching to prove themselves against their franchise's shoddy reputations. Both teams feature notoriously hard-nosed coaches (Thibs and Van Gundy), and in mid-February will be looking to jockey for playoff position in their respective conferences. Look for this to be a randomly intense, highly-competitive game.
5. Fri, Mar. 31 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks
Ever since the Big 3 Boston Celtics' era ended, the Eastern Conference has been LeBron's team followed by everyone else. Every year, the Eastern Conference's playoff seeding from 2 through 8 seems to come down to the last few weeks of the season, and I've got a hunch that the Pistons and the Bucks will be neck-and-neck around the end of March. They've got similar profiles in terms of both youth and playoff expectations, and I wouldn't be surprised if this game has a serious impact on who gets home-court in round 1 of the playoffs. This game might also set both teams up to face each other in the first round as the 4-5 seeds, in some order. Whichever team scrapes up a win here will have a big momentum advantage as the regular season winds down.