BY: ED COLE
LAS VEGAS — What a difference two days made for the Phoenix Suns.
On Sunday, they looked overmatched and were overmatched against the Houston Rockets.
On Tuesday, they looked energized and refreshed against the Utah Jazz. Phoenix was able to jump out on Utah from the opening tip, and never let up on the gas pedal in their 91-82 win over the Jazz.
Suns’ head coach Nate Bjorkgren was very pleased with the team’s overall energy level.
“There’s some ups and downs to these games, but I thought the defensive energy was there, I thought our offensive movement was much more crisp, our cuts were sharp, I thought we really shared the basketball,” Bjorkgren said. “We were getting to the paint and kicking out to shooters, so the guys shared the ball nicely today.”
One of those shooters Bjorkgren alluded to was forward Josh Harrellson, who had a solid game on both ends of the floor. Harrellson had 15 points, nine rebounds, two assists, and he hit on three of his four three-point attempts.
Harrellson has had his unfair share of injuries prior to joining the Suns, but he felt brand new against Utah, hence the stacked stat line.
“I’m just trying to get more confidence in myself. It feels good to be playing again,” Harrellson said. “I haven’t played at this level in a year-and-a-half, so it just feels good to show teams I’m back and I haven’t lost nothing.”
“Everyday I’m gonna get stronger, I’m gonna get more endurance, gonna get more conditioning. I’m just taking it day-by-day, just try and keep building and building, so hopefully I can start doing that every night,” Harrellson said.
Guard Devin Booker was one of the other big riflemen. Booker shot out quickly in the first quarter with seven points. He’d end up with a personal Summer League high of 18 points, which also led all scorers.
Booker struggled against Houston on Sunday. He was 2-for-12 from the field and he missed all four of his three-point attempts. Not one coach or player voiced any concerns with Booker’s shooting after the game. They knew those shots would eventually start falling for him. Besides, Booker’s been able to contribute in many other ways, as he made his way through the choppy shooting waters.
“Everyone talks about him (Booker) being a shooter, and a great shooter, which he is, but he can put it on the floor now too,” Bjorkgren said. “He can come off ball screens, and he makes nice reads, and he comes up with his eyes open, and he’s a willing passer. I thought he did a lot of nice things today.”
Harrellson was active on the glass, but he was outdone by center Alex Len, who ripped down 14 rebounds to go along with his eight points.
“Coach (Bjorkgren), before the game, he told me he wanted me to start getting the team going on defense, so I was trying to be loud out there and forsake the pain, so that’s what I did,” Len said.
With the win, Phoenix secures the eighth seed and a first round bye in the upcoming Summer League tournament. They’ll take on the winner of the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets on Thursday at 1 p.m. at Cox Pavilion. Milwaukee and Houston play on Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Cox Pavilion.