Kobe, LeBron share court as Cavaliers beat Lakers 120 111

By Tom Withers


CLEVELAND _ Kobe Bryant and LeBron James hugged and seemed to be in a world of their own.

One on one, despite the noise of 20,000 fans in the background.

The two superstars shared the same floor in Cleveland for the final time on Wednesday night as the Cavaliers, despite playing the second half without Kevin Love, downed the Los Angeles Lakers 120-111 in their last game before the All-Star break.

“It was just a lot of mutual respect,” James said of the embrace. “Sometimes what is known doesn’t need to be said.”

Kyrie Irving scored a season-high 35 points and James added 29 for the Cavs.

Bryant finished with 17 points in his last performance in Cleveland, where many fans cheered his every move and fans serenaded him with “Ko-be” chants throughout the night.

For James, there has been no player of his era quite like Bryant.

“His competitive nature,” James said when asked what he admires most about Bryant. “A lot of guys might be bigger, taller or jump higher, but it’s something that’s in you that gets you to that level.”

Cleveland carried a 19-point lead into the fourth quarter, but struggled to put away the lowly Lakers.

Bryant converted a 4-point play and made three free throws to get Los Angeles within 108-100, but J.R. Smith and James made 3-pointers in the final three minutes.

The Cavs tastefully saluted Bryant during pregame introductions with a video presentation of some of his best moments. Bryant watched the tribute on the arena’s gigantic scoreboard before hearing his name and taking the floor with his teammates. He patted his chest in appreciation as Cleveland’s crowd _ dotted with fans wearing Bryant’s purple-and-gold No. 24 jersey _ chanted his name.

“It felt great to play here so many years and get that type of reaction,” Bryant said of the crowd’s salute. “It was really special.”

Bryant said there have great moments and some hard ones to handle during his league-wide farewell tour.

“That we stink, that’s tough,” he said. “But being able to say, ‘thank you’ to the fans, it’s tough for me to express how I feel. It’s hard to put into words how much I appreciate it.”

Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell got drilled in his groin area by a hard pass thrown by James in the fourth quarter. Russell dropped to the floor and stayed there for several moments before he walked gingerly to the bench, where Bryant was laughing.

“Once I knew he was OK, the jokes write themselves,” Bryant said.

At Phoenix, Stephen Curry nearly had a triple-double before sitting out the fourth quarter, and Golden State stormed into the All-Star break on an 11-game winning streak with a 112-104 victory over free-falling Phoenix.

Curry had 26 points, nine rebounds and nine assists for the defending NBA champions. At 48-4, the Warriors have the best record through 52 games in NBA history, one win better than the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls and 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers.

Archie Goodwin scored 20 and Markieff Morris 19 for the Suns, who have lost nine straight and 24 of 26.

The Trail Blazers beat the Rockets 116-103, with Damian Lillard finishing with 31 points and nine assists. The Spurs held off the Magic 98-96 with Kawhi Leonard scoring 29 points and drilling a jumper from the tip of the key with 0.9 on the clock.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 21 points and Patty Mills added 17 points and seven assists for the Spurs, who won their fourth straight game.

Elfrid Payton missed an open layup at the buzzer that could have tied it.

The Kings ended a four-game losing streak with a 114-110 win over the 76ers and the Celtics had a 139-134 overtime win over the Clippers _ Isaiah Thomas had 36 points and 11 assists, including a fade-away jumper that sent the game to an extra period.

In other results, the Hawks beat the Bulls 113-90, the Timberwolves had a 117-112 win over the Raptors 112, the Pelicans held off the Jazz 100-96, the Grizzlies beat the Nets 109-90 and the Hornets had a 117-95 win against the Pacers.

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