5 things to watch in the NBA on Tuesday: Nets putting things together even without Kevin Durant
When the Brooklyn Nets acquired James Harden last month, NBA observers loudly wondered how the team's three superstars would work together.
Kevin Durant's game fits well next to Harden and Kyrie Irving. The more important question was how Harden and Irving would coexist in the backcourt as two ball-dominant forces who are used to handling the bulk of the play-making duties.
If the Nets' six-game winning streak is any indication, Harden and Irving are figuring things out quite well.
Irving told reporters last week that he and Harden talked to clarify their roles, and Irving said he told Harden: "You're the point guard, and I'm going to play shooting guard."
The arrangement has paid dividends in the form of six straight wins, including a 5-0 West Coast swing that marked the longest unbeaten road trip in franchise history. The Nets got wins over the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers, all of which came without Durant while he rests his strained hamstring.
"We had a lot of frustrating losses," Harden said defeating the Clippers on Sunday. "We don't want that to haunt us at the end of the season. So we decided to, as a team, collectively pick it up, each individual."
James Harden and Kyrie Irving are finally figuring out how to play together, leading the Nets on a six-game win streak. (Photo: Alonzo Adams, USA TODAY Sports)
The Nets will be without Durant again Tuesday when they return home to face the Sacramento Kings, who have lost seven in a row. With Harden and Irving clicking so well with the rest of the team, they stand a good chance to extend the win streak while letting Durant take as much time as he needs to recover.
Here are four more key things to watch Tuesday around the NBA:
All-Star reserves revealed
Get ready for the annual debate about snubs. After the starters were announced last week, the league will reveal the reserves on the TNT NBA Tip-Off show. The coaches deciding on the reserves are in the unenviable position of choosing seven players from each conference from a deep pool of candidates that is sure to leave someone fuming about his exclusion. Who should make the team? USA TODAY Sports' Jeff Zillgitt and Mark Medina make their picks here.
Minnesota coaching debut
The Chris Finch era begins in Minnesota with the new Timberwolves coach making his debut against the Milwaukee Bucks. The former Toronto Raptors assistant will have his work cut out for him to turn things around after Ryan Saunders was fired. The Wolves have lost eight of their last nine to fall to a league-worst 7-24. They're 23rd in defensive rating, 28th in offensive rating and 29th in net rating, according to NBA.com.
Meeting of underachievers
The Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks entered 2020-21 with high hopes. Neither is living up to them, and as the first half of the season approaches its end, it might be necessary to reconsider our expectations for the Celtics (15-15) and Mavericks (14-15). They meet Tuesday in Dallas with both in need of a solid win. If either team wants to be viewed as a serious playoff contender, they need to start stacking wins or risk having to fight for a postseason berth in the play-in tournament.
Reeling in Cleveland
The only team with a worse net rating than Minnesota is the Cleveland Cavaliers, losers of 10 in a row and 14 of their last 16 games. Just a month ago, the Cavs' rebuild appeared to be making good progress. Cleveland was 8-7 after three straight wins, including two over the Brooklyn Nets in which third-year guard Collin Sexton was sensational. Things have fallen apart since, but the Cavs will try to stop the bleeding against an Atlanta Hawks team that has had its own recent struggles.
Follow Matt Eppers on Twitter @meppers_.
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