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Phoenix Suns start slow, rally late, but fall to the Cleveland Cavaliers 120-116

Michael freaking Phelps was in the building!

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

You know it is going to be a fun night when you can feel the buzz in the crowd an hour and a half before the game — the kind of buzz that makes every former high school athlete feel the juices of yesteryear. But that’s what happens when one of the greatest players of all-time takes his talents on the road; people get excited, and parking escalates from $5 to $15 without any questions asked. You’ve made it. You get to see LeBron play live.

For much of the first half, it felt like the Suns were spectators to greatness as well, allowing a putrid 69 points (as Kevin Malone laughs over in accounting) on 59 percent shooting. LeBron James got wherever he wanted on the court, parading his way through the lane for an assortment of lay-ins and trips to the free throw line. Kevin Love and Channing Frye orbited the paint, holstering their shooting stroke until called upon by The King. When the smoke cleared, the Suns were down 16 at half, and they were lucky it wasn’t more.

Some assorted thoughts:

  • As predicted, Devin Booker was aggressive early and often, ambitiously venturing his way into the lane only to throw up awkward shots at the rim that never really stood much of a chance. The scorer’s mentality is apparent when you watch Book (and that’s a big part of it), but it is easy to see that he is still finding his way to be an all-around threat on a consistent basis. There are possessions when you can tell that he wants to respond to another elite player, and those possessions tend to not end well. Having said that ...
  • The second half was much better for Book. He got going in transition, and those easy buckets carried over into every facet of his game. Dude is twenty. You take the good with the bad and enjoy the ride.
  • Tonight was the first time I have seen consistent fingerprints of a Portland Trailblazers-like motion offense that Phoenix had talked about implementing all summer. Booker, Eric Bledsoe, and even Brandon Knight were all whizzing around screens in a similar fashion that both Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have perfected. The results are not there yet, but it is still exciting to see real effort towards progress. Structure within the half court should lead to more assists.
  • Despite his loud detractors, Marquese Chriss is one of the more entertaining players to watch on a given night. Any pick-and-roll can turn into a poster, any opposing drive can turn into a swat, and he is always two words away from trading fists. What is there not to like? Also, the rookie is getting much more comfortable as a playmaker during the ever important split second when he acts as the outlet when Bledsoe gets trapped. Stay tuned for this development going forward.
  • DeAndre Liggins brings the fighter’s mantra for Cleveland that was previously exhibited by Matthew Dellavedova. There was one sequence in the first quarter where Liggins was all over Bledsoe defensively, Bledsoe became visibly frustrated, and Liggins got an inbound steal and an easy lay-in because of it. I am not sure how many minutes Liggins will garner come playoff time with J.R. Smith and now Kyle Korver in the way, but it’s hard not to respect a grinder like that.
  • It’s remarkable to witness the manipulation that both James and Irving have on a defense. James, a chess master to the highest degree, sports a specific cadence with each dribble with the prime objective of stretching a defense to his liking. Put James and Irving in a pick-and-roll, surround the rest of the floor with shooters, and it is basically over for a defense.
  • Not to be outdone, Bledsoe is on his way to the same type of defensive manipulation, with the pick-and-roll as his vehicle of choice. What a game tonight from “Mini-LeBron.”
  • I wish there was a bench celebration award just so Alan Williams could get some shine.
  • Although we all knew that they were eventually going to run out of gas down the stretch, it was enchanting to see the Suns march all the way back from a 22-point deficit. This was the sort of game that was on the verge of getting ugly quickly, but Phoenix atoned for some first half miscues and made it interesting. At the very least, this team is playing hard and together. Some careless passes from Cleveland helped matters, but that still means something.

What a treat it is to watch greatness, man. Enjoy The King while you can.

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