Indiana Pacers 2017-18 Schedule Analysis

Now that the NBA schedule has been released, let's dive into Indiana's schedule and see when their biggest tests of the season are.

On Monday, August 14, the 2017-18 NBA schedule was officially released. Fans of all 30 teams scrambled to get their first looks at their opening opponents, when their biggest rivals would come to town, and when the big-name stars like LeBron James and Steph Curry will arrive in their city.

It's essentially impossible to predict the course of a team's season just by looking at the schedule since each team in the league will play each other at least twice. Strength of schedule is always fairly comparable from team to team, especially those in the East who don't have to play the Warriors 4 times a year.

Despite opening the season at home against Brooklyn on October 18, Indiana has just about as brutal an opening to a schedule as any team in the league. Following the opener against the Nets, the Pacers will play 6 out of the next 9 games on the road- an away slate that includes games at Miami, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, and Cleveland. The home games sandwiched in between barely offer any respite, as two Western Conference playoff teams, Portland and San Antonio, will come to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the first two weeks of play. There's no question Pacers fans will get an early look at how their young team matches up with the rest of the league.

One of the oddities of the NBA's structure is how intra-conference games are scheduled. The conferences operate on a 5-year rotating schedule of which out-of-division teams meet only 3 times a year instead of 4. There are 4 such instances of these games for each team in the league. This is one of the few areas where division opponents' schedules vary and depending on who one particular teams' opponents out of the division are, it can offer a slight advantage if said team avoids playing a conference powerhouse one extra time and instead has more games against weaker opponents. Additionally, the home-away slates between the teams are balanced so that the team will have home court advantage for two of the series.

This year, the Pacers will play 3-game series against New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Washington. It's a fairly neutral slate for Indiana, as they will face both two teams projected to make the postseason (76ers and Wizards) and two expected to finish near the bottom of the conference. Unfortunately for the Pacers, they will not have home court advantage for the two series against Philly and Washington, which will make series wins against them all the more challenging. Additionally, this means that Indiana will play most of the previous season's playoff teams the maximum number of games.

For fans of the Pacers, there's only one day that matters this year: December 13th. Indiana's only nationally-televised game of the year (non-NBATV) is when former Pacers forward Paul George comes back to town with the Oklahoma City Thunder. There's no doubt this will be the most anticipated home game of the season for most fans; a sellout crowd is more than expected, but due to the fair-weather nature of Indianapolis fans, it remains to be seen just how many will be there in George OKC jerseys. Despite the seemingly tottering relationship between Indiana and George at the moment, I firmly expect a tribute video will be made for George when he returns. Indianapolis has always made an effort to recognize their former players upon their introduction (the Colts even made a tribute video for a former offensive guard at one point), but are quick to return to support their team once the festivities conclude.

Other notable dates surrounding the Indiana Pacers schedule include when LeBron and the Cavaliers come to town on December 8th and January 12th, and the star-studded Golden State Warriors come splashing in on April 5th at the tail end of the season. Also, the Pacers' streak of not playing on Christmas continues into its 13th straight season. Indiana has only played 4 Christmas games in its existence, most recently against Detroit in 2004.

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