The back-and-forth between the former teammates took place with a little more than seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and Houston leading 99-74. Bryant pestered Howard after he secured a defensive rebound, prompting Howard to swing his elbows to clear Bryant away from him. Howard appeared to make contact with Bryant on one of the elbow swings, which of course caused Bryant to take further exception.
During the exchange, the TNT broadcast cameras appeared to catch Bryant telling Howard to "try me."Bryant also appeared to call Howard "soft."
"They don't like each other," Lakers coach Byron Scott said of Bryant and Howard, according to Yahoo Sports. "It's as simple as that."
Bryant and Howard were teammates for the 2012-13 season, after Howard was traded to L.A. by Orlando. Howard then left the Lakers for the Rockets as an unrestricted free agent in 2013. The two stars never seemed to gel due to differences in personality and their views of the Lakers' offense.
"Trash-talking is part of the game," Bryant said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I don't know when the NBA became so sensitive. ... He's a teddy bear. You can't help but like him. But when you're competing, you have a goal in mind."Howard took a more tight-lipped approach after the game.
"What do you want me to say? I'm not going to give you nothing," Howard said, according to the Houston Chronicle. "That's stupid. We won the game. It's over with."
Bryant finished with a team-high 19 points (on 6-for-17 shooting) and three rebounds. Howard posted 13 points (on 3-for-5 shooting) and 11 rebounds. James Harden led all scorers with 32 points (on 7-for-17 shooting) and six assists.