He came up with a myriad of possibilities, but in the end he shook his head.
"Even when we're having championship runs, we usually come up here and get our butts kicked," Bryant said. "They play us tough here."
Brandon Roy had 24 points and eight assists, and the Blazers beat the Lakers 106-98 on Friday night. It was Portland's eighth straight victory over Los Angeles at the Rose Garden.
Bryant scored 32 points for the Lakers, but in the final minute alone he missed a key 3-pointer, had a crucial turnover and was off on another 3. The sellout crowd collectively held its breath as each shot was launched.
"We had to fight it out," Roy said.
The Lakers played without coach Phil Jackson, who didn't travel with the team because of pain in his lower right leg, and fell 1½ games behind Cleveland for the best record in the NBA and home-court advantage throughout the postseason.
Assistant Kurt Rambis replaced the 63-year-old Jackson. The Hall of Famer will rejoin the team for practice on Saturday and isn't expected to miss any more games. The pain and swelling in his leg is caused by plantar fasciitis.
Portland remained tied with San Antonio for fourth place as it tries for home court in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
"To us, they look like a playoff team every time we come up here," Bryant said. "They're extremely well coached, Brandon Roy is a fantastic player and they have great complementary players around him. They're very good."
The Blazers held a narrow lead throughout most of the fourth quarter. Bryant pulled the Lakers into a 91-all tie with 5:15 to go, but Steve Blake answered with his own jumper for the Blazers.
Roy's pull-up jumper with 3:18 left put Portland ahead 99-96. After Bryant made a pair of free throws to narrow it again, Blake hit another long jumper to give the Blazers a 101-98 lead with 1:57 left.
Blake made one of two free throw attempts with 42 seconds left to make it 102-98 before Bryant made a bad pass on the other end.
Rudy Fernandez also managed just one of two free throws but Travis Outlaw pulled down a key rebound when Lamar Odom missed a jumper and made a pair of foul shots to make it 105-98. After Bryant missed a 3-pointer with 11.9 seconds to go, Outlaw made one more in the final seconds for the final margin.
Portland was coming off a 95-83 victory over the Spurs on Wednesday during which the Blazers erased a 19-point deficit. Because the Blazers won the series with San Antonio, they'll hold the tiebreaker should both finish with identical records.
"These last two wins were huge for us and for our confidence. We beat the Spurs, and we feel good about how we match up with the Lakers," Roy said. "This says a lot about our team. If we play in the playoffs like we played tonight, I like our chances against anybody."
The Lakers beat the Blazers twice this season at Staples Center, but Portland took the first game at the Rose Garden, 111-94. The victory was memorable because of a scary injury to Fernandez.
Fernandez was fouled hard by Trevor Ariza on a fast break and was carried from the arena on a stretcher, his neck in a brace. He was hospitalized overnight.
Ariza was booed by the sellout crowd at the Rose Garden, but he still didn't have quite the negative reaction reserved for Bryant.
Fernandez and Roy hit consecutive 3-pointers, and Outlaw added a reverse layup to give the Blazers a 32-25 lead early in the second quarter.
Bryant sparked a turnaround with a 3-pointer that gave the Lakers a 42-38 lead. His two free throws extended the lead to 50-40 late in the half.
But Portland went on a 9-0 run late that closed the Blazers to 50-49. Sasha Vujacic hit a 3-pointer to make it 53-49 for the Lakers at the half.
The Blazers reclaimed the lead and stretched it to 83-77 on Greg Oden's dunk.
"We are still trying to establish ourselves," Portland coach Nate McMillan said. "The game against San Antonio, and the game like tonight, it's about sending a message not only to ourselves but to the league, and to everybody else, that we are an up-and-coming team."
- Trail Blazers forward Martell Webster will miss the playoffs because of a lingering foot fracture that has kept him out for most of this season. Webster had surgery to repair the stress fracture in his left foot in the preseason. He appeared briefly in one game in December but aggravated the injury.