Notebook: Wolves 97, Hornets 95

Posted Mar 17, 2013 11:35 PM

Jim Beilby, for

THE FACTS: The Minnesota Timberwolves were happy to get Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko back and thrilled when they stepped up at crunch time and lead Minnesota to a 97-95 victory over the New Orleans Hornets. Pekovic and Kirilenko had been sidelined since the end of February and in the opening three quarters, the rust was evident. Going into the fourth quarter, Pekovic and Kirilenko were a combined -31 in terms of plus/minus. But in the final seconds, they showed the Minnesota fans what they had been missing, Pekovic with a big offensive rebound and a pair a free throws and Kirilenko with a pair of blocked shots.

For the first 58 minutes of the game, it was Derrick Williams that stepped up in a big way for Minnesota. He finished with a career-high 28 points and seven rebounds. Ricky Rubio had an efficient 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting and a key basket in the final minute of the game. Greivis Vasquez led the way for the Hornets with 25 points, but he had to take 25 shots to do it. And Robin Lopez got the best of Minnesota's frontcourt for most of the night, scoring 20 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

QUOTABLE: "I basically played without any basketball practice. This tonight was my practice. It is the first five-on-five action I have seen in like three weeks and it was very tough. I am feeling that I am a step short or a step slower. It is going to take a few games."

-- Kirilenko

THE STAT: The Hornets outscored the Wolves 58-46 in the paint and outrebounded Minnesota 52-33. But Minnesota shot 56.3 percent from the floor and Minnesota also got to the line 27 times, converting 20 of those freethrows.

TURNING POINT: Trailing by four with one minute to play, Rubio got an old-fashioned 3-pointer to close the gap to one. After an Eric Gordon isolation on Luke Ridnour rimmed out, Pekovic grabbed an offensive board off a Williams miss and was fouled on the put back. His two free throws gave Minnesota a one-point lead with 14.5 seconds to play. New Orleans went to the well again, isolating Gordon on Ridnour. Gordon got past Ridnour and was in a position to give the Hornets a victory, only to have Kirilenko swat his shot out of the air. Kirilenko also blocked a last-second heave by Roger Mason, securing Minnesota's victory.

QUOTABLE II: "Well 20 turnovers didn't help. But we had a chance to win the game. We were up by four and we fouled a guy going to the basket and we give them a three-point play. You can't explain that kind of stuff. Then we have the ball and a chance to score a bucket and we can't score. I thought Eric had a good look, but he goes to the hole and gets his shot blocked."

-- New Orleans coach Monty Williams

HOT: Lopez is averaging only 11.1 points (and 7.5 over the last four), but he had 10 points in the third quarter and thoroughly outplayed Minnesota's frontcourt.

NOT: Pekovic was 1-for-4 from the free throw line when he stepped up to take his two shots in the final seconds of the game. He made the shots, giving him a 50 percent night at the line.

NOTABLE: New Orleans' next seven games will be at home. ... In their remaining games, only Portland and Orlando face more teams with a winning record than Minnesota. ... After starting with a respectable 12-9 record, Minnesota has plummeted in the standings, going 6-26 since Jan. 9.

UP NEXT: For the Wolves, Monday @ Memphis, Thursday @ Sacramento, Friday @ Phoenix. For the Hornets, Monday vs. Golden State, Wednesday vs. Boston, Friday vs. Memphis.