Tuesday Night Tip-Dunk: Kobe and LeBron Make MVP a Two-Man Race

John LorgeSenior Writer IJanuary 14, 2009

As we reach the midway-point in the season, it's no surprise that teams are ailing from injuries.  

All teams will face some adversity throughout the season. Good teams face adversity head-on, great teams overcome it.  

Who will spur their teams during the doldrums of the season as we approach the All-Star break?

Los Angeles Lakers 105, at Houston Rockets 100

With Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest sidelined with injuries, the Rockets have to turn to Yao Ming to be the catalyst for offensive production. Regardless of the Asian influence, Yao deserves an All-Star bid and he showed why with 19 points, 17 rebounds, five assists, and three blocks.

Who else would step-up and provide the Rockets with the right-cross to their jab that they're used to? Tuesday night, it was Von Wafer and his 23 points on 10-14 shooting.

Well if the Rockets' star Ming stepped up and he was accompanied overachiever Wafer, then what happened?

"The Black Mamba" Kobe Bryant.

Bryant's 33 points in the victory helped him break away from the pack in the MVP race, and possibly close the gap on LeBron James.

The Lakers have been facing their own adversity too. Due to Jordan Farmar's long-term injury Derek Fisher was forced to play 39 minutes, all without committing a turnover.  

Lamar Odom, who has been fighting a knee injury that he sustained last week, was able to provide clutch play down the stretch in the fourth quarter. 

Kobe even had a band-aid over his right eye. 

With the road win over Houston, the Lakers have won 10 of their last 11 games. Things will continue to get harder before they get easier, however.

On January 14th, they go into San Antonio. On the 16th and 19th, the Lakers host Eastern Conference titans Orlando and Cleveland 

The meeting with the Cavs will be especially exciting as it is their first of the season.

Houston will be missing their two wings for one to three more weeks. In that amount of time they could slip to ninth in the playoff hunt behind Dallas. 

One game note: everybody’s favorite finger-wagging'-diplomatic-center Dikembe Mutombo logged his first four minutes of the season. He was 2-2 finishing with four points and one rebound.

Cleveland Cavilers 102, at Memphis Grizzlies 87

So, did Kobe Bryant close the MVP gap on LeBron James?

Do 30 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals, and a block answer your question?

James notched his second triple-double of the season, which happens to be his second in January. Uh-oh, I smell another Player of the Month Award coming, all it will take is a win over the Lakers this month.  

Is it any coincidence that both of LeBron's triple-doubles have come in the absence of Zydrunas Ilgauskas?

Doubtful, with the Cavs' center out for the month James knows he needs to hit the glass harder and create more for his teammates on offense.  

A decisive victory over Memphis should be routine for one of the NBA's top-teams. The Cavs will have to sustain their high from the Celtics victory into January matchups with New Orleans, the Lakers, Portland, Utah, and Orlando.

Dallas Mavericks 97, at Denver Nuggets 99

The Mavericks rallied behind Dirk Nowitzki's 44 points to comeback in the second half, but it wasn't enough to get past the Nuggets’ team-effort.

Josh Howard is out with a sprained wrist, and the Mavericks were desperately searching for a wing scorer. Jason Terry, Jose Juan Barea, and Antoine Wright shot a combined 8-29, a lousy 27 percent from the field.  

Carmelo Anthony's replacement J.R. Smith wasn't any better, shooting 1-14 from the field, but the rest of the team chimed in at 50 percent.  

The biggest hero for Denver Tuesday night was Chris "Birdman" Anderson.  Anderson double-doubled in 22 minutes with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He also added two emphatic swats and three steals against the Mavs.  

Charlotte Bobcats 80, at Detroit Pistons 78

Don't look now but the Bobcats are 5-5 over their last 10 games. Their most recent victim was the Detroit Pistons, who earned their identity from now-Charlotte coach Larry Brown.  

The Bobcats used staunch defense to keep the Pistons close, then finished the game with a 9-0 run including a Raymond Felton buzzer-beater for the victory.

The Pistons’ starting five, who are finally healthy, were supported by six points from the bench.  

The Bobcats are missing rookie sparkplug D.J. Augustin, but Felton willed the Bobcats through with a game-high 23 points. 

Atlanta Hawks 102, at Phoenix Suns 107

No Al Horford in the lineup left Shaquille O'Neal only Zaza Pachulia to dispose of on his way to 26 points and 10 rebounds. It was Shaq's 14th double-double on the season and third straight.

Hey, what happened to the out-of-shape, uninspired, injury-ridden center I was told about?



    Could LeBron and KD Team Up on the Lakers?

    Los Angeles Lakers logo
    Los Angeles Lakers

    Could LeBron and KD Team Up on the Lakers?

    Eric Pincus
    via Bleacher Report

    B/R Kicks Exclusive: Ayton & Bagley Sign with Puma

    NBA logo

    B/R Kicks Exclusive: Ayton & Bagley Sign with Puma

    Master Tesfatsion
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Cavs Have Made Calls to Spurs About Kawhi

    NBA logo

    Report: Cavs Have Made Calls to Spurs About Kawhi

    Timothy Rapp
    via Bleacher Report

    ‘The NBA Gave Me My Depression’

    NBA logo

    ‘The NBA Gave Me My Depression’

    Mirin Fader
    via Bleacher Report