Wolves Beat Phoenix 86-77 in Fourth Summer League Game

Zach LaVine drives around Phoenix defenders on his way to 20 points in the Wolves' win.

Megan Schuster
Web Editorial Assistant

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After going 0-3 in the prelminary round, the Wolves were ranked 24th in NBA Summer League. That ranking pitted them against the ninth-ranked Phoenix Suns squad on Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas.

The Suns had plenty of success during their first three Summer League games, going 2-1 against their opponents. But Minnesota came into the game trying to prove that they could come out of Vegas with a victory.

And that they did. The Wolves stayed alive in Summer League on Wednesday, beating the Phoenix Suns 86-77. Minnesota will move on to play the Sacramento Kings on Thursday at 3 p.m. CT.

Minnesota came out swinging early in the game, getting active on the offensive boards and leading the Suns in second-chance points. This kind of effort was new for the Wolves, but their initial defensive problems were not.

The Wolves struggled dealing with perimeter shooters in their game against Chicago, and Phoenix was no different in the first quarter. Elias Harris led the Suns in scoring in the first half with 10 points, shooting 2-of-3 from beyond the arc.

What did change for the Wolves, though, was the team’s determination and clean style of play. Minnesota has dealt with a lot of turnovers—and they still had 11 in the first half of this game—but they also forced seven from Phoenix and played much tighter as a group. Couple that play with double-digit production from Kyrylo Fesenko, and the Wolves were up 19-14 after the first.

The first quarter hasn’t been the problem for the Wolves in Summer League, it’s how they’ve played after that. This second quarer was a big proving-ground for Minnesota as the team tried to keep its lead and continue its offensive production.

Fesenko was the leading scorer for the Wolves in the half, as he was in the team’s game against Chicago, with 12 points off 6-of-7 shooting. Teams don’t have an answer for Fesenko once he has the ball in the post, and Minnesota’s guards have been taking full advantage.

LaVine had another solid half, shooting 3-of-6 for six points and leading his team from the point guard position. LaVine is a guy who likes to get out there and make plays, so taking over the responsibility at point has been a different role for him than he played in college. It has taken some getting used to, but it was clear from his play in the first half that he is starting to settle in.

The Wolves maintained their controled play through the second quarter, and Minnesota took a 37-33 lead into halftime.

To start off the second half, Shabazz Muhammad and LaVine came alive scoring for the Wolves. Both would get into double figures in the quarter and the Wolves continued to push for their first win of Summer League. Though Gorgui Dieng wasn’t putting up many numbers in the points column, he had a Summer League-high 19 boards for Minnesota, giving them extra possessions against a tough Suns team.

Minnesota kept battling throughout the quarter as the Suns made runs to try and overtake the Wolves. The team stayed disciplined and the rookies on the team played like seasoned veterans, holding onto a 57-53 lead entering the fourth quarter.

And in the fourth, the potential that fans have seen all Summer League from this Wolves squad finally came to be a reality. Dieng was a monster in the paint, cleaning up missed shots and pulling down every rebound that entered his airspace—finishing with a double-double 13 points and 19 rebounds.

Muhammad and Fesenko finished with 16 and 17 points respectively, nearing the top of the points column for the Wolves. But it was LaVine with 20 who came up big in the game and led his team.

It was LaVine’s huge dunk with 1:04 left in the game that put Minnesota up 78-71, and once and for all knocked out the Suns. Minnesota went on to win the game by a final of 86-77.

The Numbers Game

  • Gorgui Dieng had a Summer League-high 19 rebounds against Phoenix.
  • The Wolves as a team shot 46.2 percent from the floor, sinking 30 of their 65 shot attempts. They also shot 30 percent from beyond the arc.
  • Minnesota is now 1-3 in Summer League, with today’s win over Phoenix and losses to the Dallas Mavericks, Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls.

Looking Ahead

The Wolves move on in Summer League competition to face the eighth seeded Sacramento Kings on Thursday. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT. The Kings are 2-1 so far in Summer League, and they had a bye in the first round of the tournament—as did all of the top eight teams.

Should the Wolves win that game, they would move on and play on Saturday at 7 p.m. CT.