2013 Charlotte Bobcats schedule: Key games to get out of the NBA cellar

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Charlotte Bobcats can earn themselves legitimacy in the NBA by beating the bottom-rung teams in the league.

Charlotte is still looking to gain momentum as a franchise. For the second year in a row, the Bobcats enter the season with a first-time NBA head coach. Steve Clifford hopes the free agent signing of center Al Jefferson and the drafting of forward Cody Zeller will make the Bobcats a competitive team, but things won't be easy along the 2013-14 schedule

The Bobcats must gain early momentum, but to build relevancy and to have any hopes of making the postseason, they must beat the teams that last season joined Charlotte in the bottom ranks of the NBA. And the Bobcats must do so with one of the tougher schedules in the league. Charlotte leads the NBA with 22 back-to-backs and doesn't have a home stretch of more than three games this season.

Five games to watch

Nov. 5 at New York -- Clifford grew up in New England and worked his way through the basketball ranks on the East Coast before earning his first NBA gig with the Knicks. A return to Madison Square Garden early in the year should be a nice reminder for Clifford, who is undertaking a difficult job in his first NBA head coaching opportunity. For Charlotte, an early-season win against a solid Knicks team could catapult the team forward and build confidence.

Dec. 13 at Indiana -- Zeller, the fourth overall draft pick in 2013, likely has some fans across the state of Indiana from his days playing for the Hoosiers. And if the Bobcats want to become a potential playoff contender, a good start toward that goal would be going chest-to-chest with an elite Eastern Conference opponent, and a tough one at that.

Dec. 30 at Utah -- Jefferson finds himself back in Salt Lake City, his home for the past three years. And not only will it be a homecoming, but Jefferson's protéges, Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, will have tabs on the starting center and power forward positions, making for what should be a physical clash in the paint. Utah is in a rebuilding phase, and it's a team Charlotte must beat if the Bobcats are really ready to fight for a playoff bid.

Jan. 7 vs. Wizards -- Like the Wizards, the Bobcats are chasing a lower playoff seed. By January, the playoff picture might be quite clear, but if not the matchup could go a long way to deciding Washington or Charlotte's fate. A team like the Wizards is another good test for the Bobcats to prove they're on the upswing.

Jan 15. at Philadelphia -- The Bobcats must prove they won't lose to the team that on paper is set to lose the most games in the 2013-14 season. It's a different type of litmus test for Charlotte, but a game the Bobcats can't mail in if they want to sniff a playoff berth.

Tough tests

Beginning Feb. 22 and running through March 10, the Bobcats play the Grizzlies, Spurs, Thunder, Heat, Pacers, Cavs, Grizzlies again, and then the Nuggets. That is not an easy stretch for any NBA squad, let alone one trying to become relevant.

Easiest stretches

The final 10 games of the regular season should be reasonable for Charlotte, which has two games each against Washington, Philadelphia and Orlando. The Bobcats also play the Cavs, Celtics and Hawks, with a final game against the Chicago Bulls.

Important schedule facts

Back-to-backs: 22

Season opener: Oct. 30 at Houston

Home opener: Nov. 1 vs. Cavaliers

Longest road trip: Five games (Dec. 28-Jan. 4)

Longest homestand: Three games (Nov. 6-11, Nov. 25-29, Dec. 6-11, Dec. 21-27, Jan. 18-22, Feb. 19-22, March 22-26)

2013-14 schedule

OCTOBER
@ Houston Wednesday, October 30 2013 8:00 PM EDT coverage
NOVEMBER
Cleveland Friday, November 01 2013 7:00 PM EDT coverage
@ New Orleans Saturday, November 02 2013 8:00 PM EDT coverage
@ New York Tuesday, November 05 2013 7:30 PM EST coverage
Toronto Wednesday, November 06 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
New York Friday, November 08 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
Atlanta Monday, November 11 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Boston Wednesday, November 13 2013 7:30 PM EST coverage
@ Cleveland Friday, November 15 2013 7:30 PM EST coverage
Miami Saturday, November 16 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Chicago Monday, November 18 2013 8:00 PM EST coverage
Brooklyn Wednesday, November 20 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
Phoenix Friday, November 22 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Milwaukee Saturday, November 23 2013 8:30 PM EST coverage
Boston Monday, November 25 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
Indiana Wednesday, November 27 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
Milwaukee Friday, November 29 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
DECEMBER
@ Miami Sunday, December 01 2013 6:00 PM EST coverage
@ Dallas Tuesday, December 03 2013 8:30 PM EST coverage
Philadelphia Friday, December 06 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
Golden State Monday, December 09 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
Orlando Wednesday, December 11 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Indiana Friday, December 13 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
Los Angeles Lakers Saturday, December 14 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
Sacramento Tuesday, December 17 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Toronto Wednesday, December 18 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Detroit Friday, December 20 2013 7:30 PM EST coverage
Utah Saturday, December 21 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
Milwaukee Monday, December 23 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
Oklahoma City Friday, December 27 2013 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Atlanta Saturday, December 28 2013 7:30 PM EST coverage
@ Utah Monday, December 30 2013 9:00 PM EST coverage
JANUARY
@ Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday, January 01 2014 9:30 PM EST coverage
@ Portland Thursday, January 02 2014 10:00 PM EST coverage
@ Sacramento Saturday, January 04 2014 10:00 PM EST coverage
Washington Tuesday, January 07 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Minnesota Friday, January 10 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
@ Chicago Saturday, January 11 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
New York Tuesday, January 14 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Philadelphia Wednesday, January 15 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Orlando Friday, January 17 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
Miami Saturday, January 18 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
Toronto Monday, January 20 2014 2:00 PM EST coverage
Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday, January 22 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ New York Friday, January 24 2014 7:30 PM EST coverage
Chicago Saturday, January 25 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Denver Wednesday, January 29 2014 9:00 PM EST coverage
@ Los Angeles Lakers Friday, January 31 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
FEBRUARY
@ Phoenix Saturday, February 01 2014 9:00 PM EST coverage
@ Golden State Tuesday, February 04 2014 10:30 PM EST coverage
San Antonio Saturday, February 08 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
Dallas Tuesday, February 11 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Brooklyn Wednesday, February 12 2014 7:30 PM EST coverage
@ Detroit Tuesday, February 18 2014 7:30 PM EST coverage
Detroit Wednesday, February 19 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
New Orleans Friday, February 21 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
Memphis Saturday, February 22 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ San Antonio Friday, February 28 2014 8:30 PM EST coverage
MARCH
@ Oklahoma City Sunday, March 02 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Miami Monday, March 03 2014 7:30 PM EST coverage
Indiana Wednesday, March 05 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
Cleveland Friday, March 07 2014 7:00 PM EST coverage
@ Memphis Saturday, March 08 2014 8:00 PM EST coverage
Denver Monday, March 10 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Washington Wednesday, March 12 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
Minnesota Friday, March 14 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Milwaukee Sunday, March 16 2014 1:00 PM EDT coverage
Atlanta Monday, March 17 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Brooklyn Wednesday, March 19 2014 7:30 PM EDT coverage
Portland Saturday, March 22 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
Houston Monday, March 24 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
Brooklyn Wednesday, March 26 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Orlando Friday, March 28 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
Washington Monday, March 31 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
APRIL
@ Philadelphia Wednesday, April 02 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
Orlando Friday, April 04 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Cleveland Saturday, April 05 2014 7:30 PM EDT coverage
@ Washington Wednesday, April 09 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Boston Friday, April 11 2014 7:30 PM EDT coverage
Philadelphia Saturday, April 12 2014 7:00 PM EDT coverage
@ Atlanta Monday, April 14 2014 7:30 PM EDT coverage
Chicago Wednesday, April 16 2014 8:00 PM EDT coverage
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