"People are going to say whatever they want to say, but at the end of the day, go back and look at the game," he said. "The reason we lost was not my free throws. That didn't lose us the game. Our defense was not there in the fourth quarter."
Los Angeles led by 13 before Houston used a 14-4 spurt to close the gap to 94-91 with five minutes left. The Lakers had six turnovers and missed five shots in that span. Bryant finally got Los Angeles going again with a free throw and a bucket to make it 97-91.
The Lakers were playing without forward Pau Gasol, who sat out because of tendinitis in both knees. Antawn Jamison started in his place and had 15 points and nine rebounds.
"You miss him a lot," Bryant said of Gasol. "He's a dominant player. He's an excellent passer, an excellent post player and an excellent shooter. We're missing a lot."
A 9-0 run by the Rockets, which included five points from Delfino, got them within 75-68 with about four minutes left in the third quarter.
The Lakers led 83-73 entering the fourth quarter after Bryant hit a fadeaway jumper as the quarter ended.
The Rockets scored six straight points to get within seven points with 10 minutes left in the third quarter. The Lakers answered with a 7-2 run to push the lead to 67-55 with about eight minutes left in the quarter.
Houston cut the lead to six points with a 3-pointer by Delfino early in the second quarter before the Lakers used a 10-3 run to extend their lead to 46-33 about five minutes before halftime. That run was capped by a dunk by Howard followed by a 3-pointer from Jamison.
The Lakers led 58-45 at halftime.
NOTES: The Rockets are paying tribute to coach Kevin McHale's daughter Alexandra "Sasha" McHale, who died on Nov. 24 at age 23 of complications from Lupus by wearing a green and purple band on their jerseys and a patch of the same color with her initials on their warm-up shirts. Green was her favorite color, and purple is the color that represents the fight against Lupus. McHale remains on leave indefinitely. ... Houston's Chandler Parsons scored 13 points for his 10th straight double-digit game. ... Jamison had a season-high three blocks.