NBA Power Rankings: The 12 Biggest Los Angeles Lakers Killers
Kobe Bryant is regarded as the most clutch player in the NBA; someone that can take over a game at any point. But who can turn the tables on Kobe and and the Los Angeles Lakers?
Yes, the Lakers are the two-time defending NBA Champions. They have been able to withstand great performances from a plethora of players in the past two years en route to the Larry O'Brien trophy.
Some teams have more than one player that regularly make magic happen in LA. Other teams have only had one player stand out against the best in the West.
Since the addition of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, the Lakers have given themselves a new defensive identity. They are tough inside and better than average around the perimeter. Ron Artest's shutdown mentality gives them all the tools they need to stop almost anyone.
These are the people who have been able to solve the Laker riddle and score in bunches against the top dog.
12. Nick Young
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
The Washington Wizards haven't beaten the Lakers since 2006-07. In that season, the Wizards went off for 147 points in the Staples Center to edge the Lakers by six points.
Nick Young was drafted to the NBA from USC after the 2006-07 season. The Wizards are 0-6 against the Lakers since their offensive explosion in LA. They haven't been able to contend with the Lakers, who have made three-straight NBA Finals appearances.
However, Young has experienced his greatest successes against Los Angeles. He averages 17.3 points in each outing, which is three more than he does against any other opponent.
This season, Young went for a then season-high 30 points at the Staples Center, hitting six three-pointers. A week later he dropped 21 against the Lakers at home.
Young seems to bring his best to the best.
11. Kevin Martin
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Kevin Martin used to be a member of the Sacramento Kings. Maybe he learned how to hate the Lakers there.
As a member of the Houston Rockets, Martin has been all over the Lakers. This season, Martin has put up over 20 points each time out against Los Angeles.
Martin is averaging 26 points per game against the Lakers. He is a player who knows how to get to the free throw line. Against the Lakers he has hit 27 of his 28 attempts from the charity stripe.
The Rockets are 1-2 against the Lakers this season and a possible playoff opponent. If the Rockets draw the Lakers, Martin will have to be near perfect.
10. Rudy Gay
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Rudy Gay has played some of his best basketball against Los Angeles this season.
Gay is shooting a sizzling 54 percent from the field in four contests, scoring 89 points in all. He's helped the Grizzlies to a 2-2 record against the Lakers. Memphis even stomped the Lakers by 19 points in one of the Lakers' worst losses of the year.
Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, Gay is out for the season because of a left shoulder subluxation. The Grizzlies may meet the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
Without Gay, the Grizzlies don't really stand much of a chance against the defending champs.
9. Brook Lopez
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The New Jersey Nets haven't had much success this season. They are very close to being eliminated from playoff contention, as they sit eight games behind the Indiana Pacers for eighth in the East.
The Nets are 0-2 against the Lakers this season. Brook Lopez, however, has been spectacular against the Lakers.
Lopez has scored a combined 60 points in the matchups against the Lakers. In their latest contest, Lopez went for 35 points on only 19 shots.
With the addition of Deron Williams to the Nets, Lopez will see less attention on the offensive end. If he can amp up his rebounding, he'll start to see more attention as an elite player in the NBA.
8. Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo knows what it's like to beat the Lakers at the end of games
In 2006, Carmelo Anthony hit a game-winning jump shot to beat the Lakers in overtime.
Carmelo Anthony has always relished the opportunity to play Los Angeles in his career. He may not always play his absolute best against the Lakers, but the Nuggets are always a worthy adversary for the Lakers.
Carmelo handles crunch time.
This season, Carmelo scored 32 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to hand the Lakers their first loss of the season. The Lakers avenged the lost later this year, but Anthony still had a good game with 23 points, six boards and five assists.
Last year, the Nuggets went 3-1 against the Lakers. Carmelo combined for 77 points in the three contests he participated in.
The big reason he's on this list is the Western Conference Finals of the 2008-09 season.
Carmelo averaged 27.5 points during the six-game series. The Nuggets pushed the Lakers to their limit throughout. Carmelo attempted 75 free throws in the series, making 62 of them.
Carmelo knows how to perform in clutch situations against a favored opponent.
7. Chris Bosh
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
As a member of the Toronto Raptors, Chris Bosh did not see very much success against the Lakers.
Since joining the Miami Heat, Bosh has posted two great outings against Los Angeles. The Heat swept the season series with the Lakers for the first time since before Dwyane Wade was drafted by the Heat.
In the first game on Christmas Day, Bosh went 11-for-17 to score 24 points and grabbed 13 boards. In the second contest, Bosh went for 24 points on 17 shots yet again.
He is so high on this list because Bosh wasn't expected to do as well against the Lakers front-line. The combination of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom should be able to contain Bosh.
Bosh has been the x-factor in both wins over the Lakers and he'll need to bring that energy to the NBA Finals if this is the matchup.
6. Dwight Howard
Harry How/Getty Images
There have been rumors circulating that Dwight Howard will look at Los Angeles as a possible place to play this off-season.
For now, Howard is on the Orlando Magic. The Magic know what it's like to play the Lakers, as the two teams met in the 2009 NBA Finals. The Lakers escaped with a 4-1 series win to capture the NBA title.
The Magic made the finals before Howard really became an integral part of the offense. However, Howard was a defensive force in the series. Howard averaged 15.2 rebounds and four blocks in the five-game loss. He even swatted nine shots in one of the games.
This season, the Lakers have seen the offensive side of Howard's game. Howard scored 53 points on only 30 shots to split the season series with the Lakers.
The Magic and Lakers could meet in the Finals again. This time, Howard can do it all.
5. LeBron James
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
LeBron James is a mismatch for almost any team in the NBA.
The Lakers, however, think they have a player that can slow down the two-time defending MVP. Ron Artest feels he is fully capable of playing terrific defense on LeBron and making the Heat look elsewhere for their points.
Instead, LeBron has been able to play two complete games against the Lakers. On Christmas, LeBron went for a triple-double with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. He flirted with another one in the second contest, another win for the Heat.
LeBron has career averages of 27 points and seven rebounds and assists against the Lakers.
He's another player that can kill the Lakers.
4. Russell Westbrook
Westbrook is not afraid of the Lakers' bigs
As the announcer in the video says, Russell Westbrook has "young legs."
This is a clip from last year's playoff matchup against the Lakers. Westbrook was the primary reason the Thunder were able to push the Lakers to six games. The stats may not show it, but Westbrook was the game-changer for Oklahoma City.
Westbrook averaged 20.5 points and six assists in the playoffs, but he was quick around the court and explosive around the rim. He was 32-for-38 from the foul line and had two games where he didn't commit a turnover.
Westbrook is a contender for Most Improved Player this season because of his increasing stats and rising abilities. He went for 32 points, 12 assists and five rebounds in a win over Kobe and company. He also recorded 22 points and six assists in a slim loss.
The Lakers struggle to contain good point guards, and Westbrook is great.
3. Derrick Rose
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Derrick Rose is widely regarded as the top MVP candidate this season.
Rose's confident drives and dynamic dishes have people around the world believing he's the most valuable player to his team in the league. He is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks.
In his three-year career, Rose has been extremely effective against Los Angeles. He averages 25 points per game versus the Lakers, his second-highest total against any team.
This season, Rose has helped the Bulls hold the Lakers under 100 points in both contests (1-1). He dropped 30 points and dished out eight dimes in a November loss to the Lakers. Rose scored 29 points, recorded 9 assists and grabbed five rebounds to avenge the loss in a December win.
Rose would like nothing other than a chance to end the Lakers reign at the top in the NBA Finals.
2. Kevin Garnett
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Phil Jackson and the Lakers remember Kevin Garnett from the 2007-08 NBA Finals.
Garnett was the most dominant big man that year, pushing the Boston Celtics past the Lakers in six games. He averaged 18.2 points and 13 boards over the course of the series, out-performing Gasol.
The Lakers likely also remember Garnett averaging 23.7 points and 13.5 rebounds as the star of the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2004 Western Conference Finals.
Although Garnett's production has dropped off a bit in the past three seasons, he can still dominate down low. Garnett has stayed in superb shape over the years and has seen reduced minutes in Boston to allow more longevity in his career.
In a win over the Lakers, Garnett had 18 points on only 12 shots, while also recording 13 boards and five assists. The Celtics lost their next contest to the Lakers, but Garnett still turned in a double-double.
Garnett is crucial for the Celtics to stop the Lakers inside. Maybe he can't be the player he was in 2004, but he definitely believes he can repeat the performance he had in 2008.
1. Paul Pierce
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
How else do you finish a list of Lakers killers other than with a second consecutive Boston Celtic?
Paul Pierce averages 25.5 points per game lifetime against the Lakers—the most against any time for Pierce. In the Celtics' win over the Lakers this season, Pierce netted 32 points.
Every time Boston and Los Angeles hit the floor, Pierce puts on the ultimate game face. On many occasions, Pierce has demanded to guard Kobe and he's been a successful stopper.
The 2008 NBA Finals wasn't solely the Kevin Garnett show, Pierce was also at his absolute best. Pierce was named Finals MVP after averaging 21.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists in the triumph.
Pierce's best performance was in a Game 5 loss. Pierce went for 38 points, eight assists and six rebounds in defeat. He also attempted 19 free throws, making 16.
Pierce was not nearly as impressive in the 2010 NBA Finals. I'm sure he'd like to try and prove that 2010 was the fluke.
Do you think I missed anybody or do you agree with my selections?
I'd love to read your comments!