Suns Resilient Effort Comes Up Short in First Loss of Summer League

by Cody Cunningham

The Suns entered the first game of the tournament undefeated and locked in as the three seed. The difference with this game compared to the rest is that they would be without two of their core players.

While it was announced that Josh Jackson would be sitting out the rest of Summer League prior to the game, Elie Okobo’s absence came at much more of a surprise. The young point guard’s night was cut short after just one minute of action as an early injury took him out of the game.

“Put us in a situation where we’re playing with basically one point guard on the court,” Head Coach Igor Kokoškov said. “It changes rotation, lineups. It was the whole game we couldn’t really find the rhythm.” 

Mikal Bridges replaced Jackson in the starting lineup while George King took a bigger role off the bench. Kokoškov believed this was not only good for King to receive more playing time, but also for them to evaluate him better.

“It’s great,” Kokoškov said. “I think the whole tournament is a good opportunity to see where he is and what his NBA game requires." 

Kokoškov was also impressed with Bridges’ defensive energy as the 21-year-old finished with four steals and two blocks.

“As a young player he’s got to play with a lot of energy,” Kokoškov said. “We know he’s a competitor. We know that he’s learning.”

While the Suns started the game strong, the second half turned their 14-point lead into a 10-point deficit, but they weren’t willing to give up that easily. 

Shaq Harrison and Davon Reed stepped up when it mattered most and put on a show for the fans in Vegas. The two second-year players put their bodies through contact as time after time they continuously got to the free throw line in the fourth quarter.

The biggest moment for the Suns came with just under two minutes left in the game, down by five and Harrison at the line. He knocked down both of his shots, but stayed for full court pressure. Harrison not only followed this up by stealing the inbound pass, but also delivered a monster slam to bring the Suns within just one.

Although the Suns never gave up, their resilient effort finished short as Philadelphia would hold their lead and and win 88-86. While the loss was tough, Kokoškov was not upset with what his team brought to the court.

“I can’t be unhappy,” Kokoškov said. “I’m pleased with our effort, but they just played better.”

Harrison led the way for the Suns scoring a team-high 17 points to go along with his eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. Reed finished with 16 points, five rebounds and four assists. 

While the Suns are officially out of the tournament, they aren’t finished with Summer League yet. They will play one final game on Friday at 3:30 pm. Be sure to catch the action on NBA TV or listen-in to Arizona Sports as they will be broadcasting the game on ESPN 620 AM.