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2023 NBA Summer League Game Thread: Wolves vs. Hawks

Leonard Miller, Josh Minott and the Timberwolves are looking to bounce back from Monday’s loss, as they battle Kobe Bufkin, AJ Griffin and the Hawks

2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League - Minnesota Timberwolves v Utah Jazz Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Info

The Minnesota Timberwolves return to the floor for their third outing of 2023 Las Vegas NBA Summer League, as they are set to take the Atlanta Hawks and their last two first-round picks, former Michigan guard Kobe Bufkin and ex-Duke stand-out AJ Griffin.

2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League - Atlanta Hawks v Denver Nuggets Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Vegas Hawks Performance So Far

Much like Minnesota did, Atlanta split a pair of up-and-down opening games over at the COX Pavilion and now are graduating to the Thomas & Mack Center for a pivotal third game that could help solidify their standing in tournament play.

A triumvirate of former college stars — North Carolina forward Brady Manek (13.5 PPG), trusted UCONN Husky floor general Tyrese Martin (13.0) and Bufkin (12.5) — have led the Hawks in a balanced scoring effort through two games, while Atlanta has turned to 2020 second-round pick Vit Krejci (5.5 APG) and Bufkin (4.5) for the majority of the squad’s playmaking thus far.

Griffin has really struggled so far in Summer League play for the Hawks, averaging just nine points on 27.3/30.8/100.0 shooting splits to go along with six rebounds and two assists to two turnovers per game across 24.4 minutes per contest. He is still just 19 years old, but there’s no doubt Atlanta was hoping for more from Griffin, who played very well in a low volume role off the bench typical of a mid-first-round rookie.

Look for Griffin to be more aggressive in taking on Josh Minott or Leonard Miller off the bounce, and Bufkin to continue getting up 3-pointers in high volume, whether it’s in catch-and-shoot, dribble hand-off or pick-and-roll scenarios.

2023 NBA Las Vegas Summer League - Minnesota Timberwolves v Utah Jazz Photo by Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

Where Can the Wolves Improve From Monday?

After missing Wendell Moore Jr. in the last game due to left knee soreness, the Wolves will look to get him back and calm the half-court offense down a bit in the wake of the train coming off the tracks at the end of the Timberwolves’ second Summer League game.

(Editor’s note: Wendell Moore Jr. was ruled out at 2:40 PM CT, after this preview was posted.)

But before the pace got too out of control, Miller was fantastic in his second showing in Las Vegas. The former G League Ignite star scored a team-high 20 points on 7/15 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers, to go along with five rebounds, two assists and three steals in a game-high 31 minutes of play.

Minott will also be looking to stack another great performance on top of his Monday showing, in which he scored 19 points on 8/18 shooting, grabbed six boards, dropped a pair of dimes, and also recorded two emphatic blocks inside. Minott was tremendous at slipping screens and cutting back-door, and will certainly be looking to make a similar impact again this afternoon.

Beyond those three, the Wolves will need to shoot it better from deep if they want to come away victorious today. Minnesota shot 0/12 beyond the arc outside of Miller and Brendan Adams’ connecting on four of their six attempts. Moore controlling things better in the half-court should lead to some better looks, but there’s no official word on whether or not he will play. Minnesota also got killed 53-38 on the glass, allowing 14 offensive rebounds that turned into 14 second chance points for the Jazz, and surrendered 20 points off 13 turnovers.

The Timberwolves would certainly love to replicate their 54-42 performance in the paint scoring department and 33-12 advantage in free throw attempts, as they’ve relentlessly gotten into the paint, collapsed the defense, and earned points at the line when the jumpers aren’t falling. That aggressiveness has certainly been encouraging, especially from Miller and Minott.

Who plays today is anybody’s best guess, as teams rarely release any injury information until the final minutes before tip-off, but if the Wolves can clean up some of the controllables, they should have a good shot to take down a Hawks squad with limited NBA experience.