Irving collected 31 points and six assists in 29 minutes of action during the Cavaliers' 112-92 loss. The Cavs said their leading scorer will be inactive for Monday's game in Atlanta as "he takes the next steps in his recovery."
There was some speculation Irving would miss the rest of the season after injuring the shoulder March 10 against Toronto.
"It wasn't so much what I noticed but it was the way he was moving, the way he said he felt," coach Byron Scott said before the game. "He has to trust me. If I don't think he looks right, if I don't think he's moving well, then I'll take him out."
Irving was expected to miss at least three weeks with the injury, his latest during a brief NBA career. He missed 11 games earlier this season with a broken index finger and three with a hyperextended knee. The Rookie of the Year in 2012, Irving missed 15 games last season with injuries and he broke his hand during a summer practice.
The Cavaliers have dropped eight in a row, but Scott insisted Irving's return was not about wins and losses. Cleveland is 22-50 and is headed for a lottery pick.
"If we thought he was in any danger we would not put him out there," Scott said. "That's first and foremost. I'm the cautious one when it comes to putting him out there."
Also, Hornets guard Greivis Vasquez returned to the starting lineup Sunday night and scored 25 points in 35 minutes. Vasquez had missed two of the past three games with a sprained left ankle.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.