February 07, 2015

While the book slowly closes on Kobe Bryant's playing career, another is just opening for Tyronn Lue as a coach.

The next meeting between the former teammates features Lue continuing to mold his first team while Bryant waves goodbye to yet another city when the Los Angeles Lakers visit the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night.

Bryant and Lue won a pair of championships together on the first two legs of the Lakers' three-peat in the late 1990s and early 2000s, merely the beginning of Bryant's legacy. But as the 37-year-old superstar closes his storied career during a dismal Los Angeles season, Lue, 38, is trying to build the Cavaliers (37-14) into a stronger NBA Finals contender than they were under David Blatt.

Cleveland is 7-3 since Lue took over for the fired Blatt on Jan. 22, and the Cavs have rebounded nicely from their first losing streak under their new coach by posting consecutive blowout victories at home over New Orleans and Sacramento.

Kyrie Irving matched a season high with 32 points and tied a career high with 12 assists, and LeBron James posted his 40th triple-double in Monday's 120-100 win over the Kings. James finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, even while sitting the entire fourth quarter.

Bryant may be passing the NBA's torch on to James, who reminisced about receiving a pair of sneakers from his All-Star counterpart while in high school - the type of gift Bryant has given to Draymond Green, Paul George and Kevin Durant during his final season.

''Anytime I even watch his games, even when I'm not playing him, it's always like very emotional just knowing it's his last hurrah,'' James said. "It's going to be really cool to see him for sure. I know our fans will give him a great reception, well deserved.''

The Lakers and Cavaliers meet one final time in Los Angeles on March 10.

Bryant did not play in last season's 120-105 loss at Quicken Loans Arena on Feb. 8 after undergoing right rotator cuff surgery, so the last matchup between him and James came about three weeks earlier in a 109-102 Cavaliers win in Los Angeles. The two squared off in the fourth quarter, and James finished with 36 points on 12-of-23 shooting while Bryant had 19 and a career-high 17 assists.

Cleveland's back-to-back victories ended a stretch of eight games in which these teams traded wins. The Cavaliers have won eight of the last 10 meetings in Cleveland.

Though Bryant has averaged 26.4 points in the last five games, Los Angeles (11-43) lost three of them and is mired in a 3-16 slump.

The Lakers dropped their second straight with Monday's 89-87 loss to Indiana, dropping them to 1-2 on their four-game road trip. Bryant made 6 of 25 shots for 19 points and Los Angeles shot a season-low 31.2 percent while making 8 of 35 3-pointers.

Bryant made three straight 3s late in the fourth quarter but missed his final five shots.

"Sometimes you live and die with it," coach Byron Scott told the team's official website. "And I'm willing to do it with him. ... He hit three big ones in a row for us, so I wasn't going to go away from him then."

The Lakers have lost seven of eight on the road to fall to 5-25, while the Cavaliers are an Eastern Conference-best 21-4 at home.

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