CLEVELAND • Kobe Bryant walked off the floor blowing kisses and waving goodbye to another roaring sell-out crowd in another visiting city. Kevin Love walked off the floor with his surgically repaired left shoulder dangling.
Bryant will not be back. Love will not miss any time at all.
Guard Kyrie Irving scored a National Basketball Association season-high 35 points for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who dodged a major injury scare to Love in their 120-111 win against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.
Irving shot 15 of 24 and has been shooting 56 per cent since Jan 29. His three-point shooting seemed to be the final attribute to return following surgery, as he is shooting 57 per cent (eight of 14) from deep in the Cavs' past two games.
Love left the game in the second quarter's final minute with a shoulder injury, the same shoulder on which he had surgery last year after dislocating it during the play-offs against the Boston Celtics.
He did not return but said he would be ready when the Cavs host the Chicago Bulls on Feb 18.
Bryant's arm seemed to catch Love's shoulder when Love was backing down on him for a shot in the post. Love yelled in pain and headed for the bench with 45 seconds left in the second quarter, then walked to the locker room.
"It felt like fire was running down my arm," he said. "Just a stinger, and doctors decided we'll be cautious and use the break for it to feel better, but it actually feels OK right now."
His exit overshadowed Bryant's final appearance in Cleveland. Bryant had 17 points and six rebounds while shooting just five of 16.
However, his four-point play cut the Cavaliers' lead to 104-95. The Lakers pulled within eight in the final minutes, but a three-pointer from Cleveland guard J.R. Smith with 3min 19sec left put the game away.
There is a mutual respect between Bryant and Cavs forward LeBron James, who had 29 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds. They embraced when Bryant checked out of the game in the final minute to a standing ovation.
The five-time champion reiterated on Wednesday that he does not consider James a rival because the two stars were not really in the same generation. But the Lakers guard seems to be more receptive than he was earlier in his career when he appeared chilly on the court towards the Cavs star.
Bryant insists, however, the two have always had a better relationship than perceived.
"We've been close. We talk on the phone probably more than people know," he said.
They will face off again at Sunday's All-Star Game in Toronto, but after that, there will only be one more meeting between James and Bryant - next month at Staples Centre. The two legends have combined to appear in each of the last nine NBA Finals, yet somehow never met to play in one.
"We never had the match-up that everybody wanted, that we wanted," James said.