Monday night NBA action featured another vintage performance by James Harden. The Thunder remained in total free fall with a loss to the Hornets, while the Bulls stunned the Celtics for their sixth win of the year. Tuesday night games include Kawhi Leonard making his return from an injury and the Lakers taking on the Knicks in Madison Square Garden.

Marquee NBA Tuesday night matchups

76ers (13-13) vs. Timberwolves (16-11)

The Sixers are on a four-game losing streak. Budding superstar Joel Embiid sat out the previous two games and is questionable versus the Timberwolves.

It was true before the season and it's true now, if Philadelphia wants a chance at a playoff berth they need a healthy Embiid. If Embiid is out against the Timberwolves, center Karl-Anthony Towns could have a huge night. In his last two games, Towns is averaging 24.5 points, 12 rebounds, and four assists.

Nuggets (14-12) vs. Pistons (14-12)

The Nuggets lost in overtime to the Pacers on Sunday (Dec. 10). With Paul Milsap and Nikola Jokic injured, Will Barton has upped his scoring output from a season average of 16.1 points per game to 18.8, but the defense remains a problem; they’ve allowed at least 122 points in three of their last four games.

The Pistons have lost six straight games, but finally have a chance to turn things around against Denver.

The schedule hasn’t been kind as they’ve played the Spurs, Warriors, and Celtics over that stretch, but several winnable games are coming up to get back on track and it could start with the Nuggets.

The rest of the NBA matchups

Lakers (10-15) vs. Knicks (13-13)

The Lakers are coming off strong victories versus the 76ers and Hornets on the road.

While rookie Lonzo Ball’s shooting remains dreadful, he continues to fill up the stat sheet. In the two recent wins, Ball is averaging 6.5 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 2.5 blocks, and 1.5 steals.

The Knicks suffered a terrible loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday (Dec. 9) and just about let one slip away versus the Hawks on Sunday (Dec.

10). Reserve Michael Beasley had the unique distinction of fouling out of the game against Atlanta in 10 minutes.

Hawks (6-20) vs. Cavaliers (19-8)

Hawks’ forward Ersan Ilyasova has been a scoring machine over the past two games. In a victory over the Magic and loss to the Knicks, Ilyasova has poured in 46 points on 16-20 shooting. Even more impressive, he’s shot 10-11 from behind the arc. Ilyasova has been inconsistent his entire career, so he’ll fall back down to earth soon, but his run is still impressive.

After a rocky start to the season, Dwyane Wade has morphed his game into an extremely valuable sixth man. Over his previous five games, he’s averaging 13.2 points and shooting 60.5% from the field in 25.2 minutes.

Spurs (19-8) vs. Mavericks (7-20)

Kawhi Leonard is back! After missing the first 27 games of the season, the Spurs' All-Star will make his long-awaited return. San Antonio held the fort while he was out, but a healthy Leonard is essential for any long-term success.

The Mavericks are last in the Western Conference, but haven't lost a game by double-digits since November 17, which is something of a win for Dallas.

Wizards (14-12) vs. Nets (10-15)

The Wizards are 2-2 so far on their five-game road trip. Forward Otto Porter Jr. had two awful games in recent victories over the Trail Blazers and Suns. Porter Jr. scored a total of six points and shot 3-17 from the field, but he found his groove again against the Clippers, knocking down 10-16 shots for 27 points.

The Nets have won two of three games and made a trade to get center Jahlil Okafor from Philadelphia. With leading scorer D’Angelo Russell out with an injury, Okafor should provide an offensive spark, but while scoring has never been an issue for the big man, it’s his defense that kept him out of the Sixers’ rotation.

Suns (9-19) vs. Kings (8-18)

With their best player, Devin Booker, the Suns struggled to earn wins, and without him, it may not even be possible, but they have a chance versus the Kings. Sacramento pulled off a recent come-from-behind victory over the Pelicans, but that says more about New Orleans than any marketable improvement by the Kings.