The Lakers (11-44) lost their third consecutive game and head into All-Star weekend with the Western Conference’s worst record. The Cavaliers (37-14) likely have more concerns about Kevin Love leaving late in the first half with pain in his left shoulder than the outcome itself. This game bore more significance for the symbolism surrounding Bryant’s last appearance in Cleveland. Bryant scored 17 points on only 5-of-17 shooting, while James finished with 29 points on a 12-of-22 clip. The Cavaliers presented Bryant with a video tribute during lineup introductions. On the Lakers’ first possession, Bryant made a mid-range jumper over James. Later on, Bryant drove past James for a reverse layup. Bryant received a standing ovation when he exited the game with the Lakers trailing 118-109 with 40.2 seconds left. Bryant and James then shared a hug and laughs afterwards, which partly entailed Bryant boasting about his highlight play.“I can’t believe he fell for that,” Bryant said of beating James for the layup. “He knows that’s what I do. We had a good laugh about that.”Otherwise, the game became painful to watch, most notably when James fired a pass below D’Angelo Russell’s waistline in the third quarter. “I’m all right,” Russell said. “If I expected it, it would’ve hurt more. It was tough. Every guy knows the feeling. I’ll laugh about it now. Then two months from now, somebody else will have something to laugh about.”The Cavaliers’ scoreboard video also showed Bryant chuckling on the bench. “Once I knew he was OK,” Bryant said, “the jokes write themselves.” The Lakers also became a joke defensively, allowing Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving to post 35 points on 15-of-24 shooting and Cleveland to score 48 points in the paint. Bryant admitted it has become somewhat difficult to embrace his farewell tour because “we suck.” But he temporarily forgot about that amid his history with James.“I wouldn’t say it was a rival,” Bryant said. “I never looked to see what he was doing or if he pushed me. It’s a completely different generation.”But Bryant insisted he is “close” with James and has talked frequently about basketball, business matters and players union issues. Bryant also reported advising James shortly after he jumped from high school to the NBA in 2003.“‘Stay true to the craft,’” recalled Bryant, who jumped from high school to the NBA in 1996. “Everything else would sort itself. I think that was the most important piece of advice I could’ve given to him.”In 20 regular-season matchups over the next 13 years, Bryant then averaged 25 points on 42.2 percent shooting, while James averaged 28.4 points on a 46.4 percent clip. They became closer on the U.S. Men’s Olympic teams in 2008 and 2012.“One of the things I noticed about him and playing with him on the Olympic teams is how he communicates with others and challenges others in gregarious ways,” Bryant said of James. “Those are one of the things I always admired about him.”Yet, neither showed outward affection toward each other until the Lakers played Cleveland last year in Bryant’s 19th season.“It was never a nasty competition when we played against each other,” Bryant said. “I just think now it’s a little different, this being toward the end.”That end between Bryant and James will happen March 10 at Staples Center. Just like it has been for their careers, that moment will not determine who holds the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error CLEVELAND >> The path to an NBA championship for nearly the past decade became a rite-of-passage that involved handling two different uncomfortable scenarios.Either find a way to stop Kobe Bryant’s scoring outbursts or somehow limit LeBron James’ ability to master all five positions. But much to the chagrin of the NBA’s fan base and Nike executives, Bryant and James did not square off directly in the Finals. “It didn’t matter to me,” Bryant insisted. “For the fans, it probably stinks because it would’ve been a great matchup. But from a players’ perspective, it doesn’t matter who you play. You just want to win the championship.”Bryant won five, while James has two (and possibly counting). But Bryant and James only played against each other in 21 relatively meaningless regular-season appearances, the latest including the Lakers’ 120-111 loss to the Cavaliers on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.