HOUSTON -- In complete control for the majority of Tuesday's game, the Los Angeles Lakers collapsed down the stretch and watched the Houston Rockets swipe an improbable 107-105 victory at Toyota Center on Tuesday night.
It was not the way the Lakers hoped to open a three-game road trip.
The Rockets (9-8) trailed by as many as 17 points and didn't take their first lead until Toney Douglas drilled a corner 3-pointer with 2:38 remaining. That basket pushed the Rockets in front 100-99, and while the Lakers pulled ahead on a pair of Dwight Howard free throws 29 seconds later, their momentum was squandered by another stretch of lackluster play.
Howard missed half of his 10 fourth-quarter free-throw attempts as the Rockets purposely fouled him as part of their rallying strategy. The Lakers (8-10) made one basket following a Kobe Bryant driving layup with 3:37 left: a Bryant 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 106-105 with 13.3 seconds remaining.
Los Angeles, which lost for the third time in four games, dropped to 3-5 since Mike D'Antoni took over as coach.
"We've got some stuff to do, but we're close, and I thought this game would be really good," D'Antoni said. "We've got some tightening up to do, but we'll see if we can get it done in New Orleans (on Wednesday)."
Reserves Douglas (22 points), Greg Smith (21 points, nine rebounds), Carlos Delfino (15 points) carried the weight for the Rockets, who got just 15 points on 3-for-19 shooting from James Harden. Delfino and Douglas combined to hit 14 of 32 shots to offset the lack of production from the Rockets' starting backcourt. Point guard Jeremy Lin finished with four points and three assists.
"We have a nice bench coming (along). We have options," Delfino said. "We want to give the starters a rest, and when they don't have a good night, we can give a second punch or first punch or whatever it is."
Bryant paced the Lakers with 39 points, but he needed 31 shots to reach that game-high total. Howard chipped in 16 points and 12 rebounds.
"We let this game get away," Bryant said. "We just have to play a little better, especially down the stretch."
Buoyed by their bench throughout, the Rockets rode their reserves to an unexpected, white-knuckle finish. With the Lakers maintaining a double-digit lead for most of the second half, the Rockets made their run before Bryant and Howard re-entered with just over six minutes left.
Behind Smith, Delfino and Douglas, each of whom played the entire fourth quarter, the Rockets fashioned an 11-2 run before Bryant drilled a jumper with 5:39 left. Prior to that 18-footer, the Lakers' lead was down to 92-88, setting the stage for the dramatic conclusion.
"I was prepared to win with them and lose with them," Rockets interim coach Kelvin Sampson said of his bench trio.
"It feels good to know the coaches and your teammates have confidence in you to finish the game even though Lin was in foul trouble," Douglas said. "The second group, we had a rhythm, and coach kept us on the floor."
With Pau Gasol sidelined due to tendinitis in both knees, Bryant took it upon himself to fill the scoring void by hoisting 11 shots in 12 first-quarter minutes. Bryant connected on five of those attempts and added four free throws to compile 14 points and serve as the catalyst for Los Angeles, which shot 50 percent en route to a 30-point first period.
Douglas helped whittle a 13-point deficit to 30-22 by the close of the first quarter, and then he scored the Rockets' opening five points of the second. He closed the half with 14 points but was alone in terms of offensive efficiency. Harden and Lin combined to shoot 2-for-15 before the break.
NOTES: Gasol will be out indefinitely. He started the first 17 games this season, posting averages of 12.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. ... The Rockets' bench outscored the Lakers' 59-20. ... Bryant is 13 points shy of becoming the fifth player in NBA history to score 30,000 for his career. ... Smith eclipsed his previous career high of 13 points, set against Utah on Dec. 1.