November 27, 2022
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AJ Griffin reacts to career night in upset win over Bucks

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AJ Griffin has always been told to stay ready for his opportunity, and the 16th pick did just that on Monday to help the Atlanta Hawks help beat the previously unbeaten Milwaukee Bucks.

With Trae Young out of the lineup due to a shin injury, the Hawks relied on their second unit and the group got a huge night from Griffin to lead the charge. He scored a season-high 24 points, four rebounds, three steals and one assist in the 117-98 win as the Hawks improved to 7-3.

Griffin shot 10-of-15 from the field, including 2-of-6 from 3-point range, in 31 minutes off of the bench. He finished a game-high plus-28 on the court and is the first rookie this season to have at least 20 points and three steals in a game.

Hawks head coach Nate McMillan liked what his bench brought.

(They) played good basketball on both ends of the floor. Those guys were working tonight. Of course, with Trae being out, we were short-handed but they stepped up to the challenge. We had to play aggressive, solid basketball against the best team in the league so far this season.

The Hawks trailed by 11 points after allowing the Bucks to hit 8 3-pointers in the first quarter. Griffin stepped in and made perhaps his biggest impact in the second quarter, recording 10 points, two rebounds and one steal as the Hawks cut the deficit to six points entering the half.

Griffin wanted to come in and be aggressive for his team.

I feel like that is always a constant battle. You gotta fight every day to have that mindset of being aggressive. You can either be aggressive or passive. You gotta choose that every single day. Coach said after the game (there is) no stepping back just continue to stay aggressive and have that mindset of coming in and making an impact right away.

Griffin was previously out of the rotation entering play on Monday. He had totaled just 23 points across five appearances before erupting for his career night during his first look in a larger role. He proved exactly why the Hawks took him in the first round of the draft.

He often leans on the advice and support from his father, Adrian, who is an assistant coach with the Toronto Raptors. He shared some of the advice his father gave him entering the season.

It is just that mentality to stay ready. I just have to give all of the glory to God just to be able to stay mentally strong through those moments where your name could get called at any moment. Coach just told me to be ready early. Just having that mindset to rise to the occasion and take the challenge. That’s what my dad likes to say: ‘Take that challenge and have that mindset to know you put in the work.’ I just gotta give the credit to these coaches and my teammates here to support me.

The Hawks may not have consistent playing time for Griffin but the 19-year-old showed what he can provide off of the bench in spot minutes. The organization loved his addition to the roster and Griffin offered a glimpse of what he can bring on a nightly basis.





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