A primer on the chase for the final two Western Conference playoff spots exists.
Let’s offer the same for the final two spots in the East, with less fanfare and no real preamble.
Start with road trips.
The Bulls don’t have one single road trip of extreme length. They face a four-out-of-five road sequence in two separate instances, on March 24 and then April 3.
The Hornets are in the middle of a six-game road swing. They’re 3-0 thus far. Charlotte later faces a four-game trip starting March 22. In previous trips of four games or longer, the Hornets are 2-6. They went 0-4 in early January and then 2-2 on a separate four-gamer in late January. Their composite “long road trip” record, including the current 3-0 trip, is 5-6.
As an added note for Charlotte: The team also faces a five-out-of-six road sequence in April.
The Pistons have a four-game road swing coming up on March 9. Detroit is 4-6 on extended roadies this season. The Pistons went 2-4 on a six-game November excursion, 2-2 on a late-January journey.
The Wizards face a particularly daunting seven weeks strictly in terms of the distribution of road games. Washington will set forth on a five-game road trip on March 27, and that’s after a five-out-of-six sequence which begins on March 2. The Wizards have endured one previous extended road swing. They went 1-3 on a four-gamer in December.
Now, let’s turn to homestands.
Chicago gets a four-gamer on March 17. Charlotte does even better, receiving a seven-game homestand which will start on March 4 before that late closing stretch which starts on March 22.
Yet, if you think Charlotte has the best situation with its seven-game stay in North Carolina, the Pistons get to play at The Palace for nine straight games. Yes, a nine-game homestand runs from March 16 through April 1, without a single venture to any other NBA arena. Detroit enters play on Wednesday, February 24 with a two-game deficit relative to Charlotte and Chicago, the current placeholders for the seventh and eight playoff spots. If the Pistons can merely prevent that deficit from expanding by the time they get to their nine-game homestand, they’d probably take that scenario.
The Wizards do not have any extended homestands over the remainder of the season.
Speaking of Washington, if the Wizards’ final 27 games are short on home dates, they’re rich in winnable games. Washington’s opponents in the final third of the season are — on average 6.4 games below .500, a rounded figure. Three games against Philadelphia, two against Minnesota, and two against Brooklyn will do that. Two of Washington’s final five games are against the Nets. The Wizards also play the lowly Suns and Lakers once each.
Charlotte is second to Detroit in terms of the longest remaining homestand of these four teams. The Hornets are also second to the Pistons in terms of the most favorable schedule, as determined by average position relative to the break-even point. Charlotte’s opponents are 5.4 games under .500 the rest of the way. That’s also a rounded figure.
It’s not as though Chicago and Detroit have tough schedules on an absolute scale; the Bulls and Pistons merely have harder schedules when compared to Washington and Charlotte. The Bulls’ opponents are .48 games under .500, while the Pistons’ foes are .4 games below sea level.
Any final notes? Let’s go with head-to-head matchups in April, when this 82-game marathon becomes a sprint:
April 2: Detroit at Chicago
April 8: Washington at Detroit
April 10: Charlotte at Washington