NEW ORLEANS(AP) Sean Marks came up empty as he searched his memory for the last time he was on the court in the final minutes of a close game.

Yet the Hornets' backup big man came through in the waning moments against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night.

Marks dunked with 7.8 seconds left to cap a career-high 18-point effort, and the short-handed Hornets overcame the ejection of David West in a 101-97 victory.

"I honestly couldn't tell you the last time I was in a game, down the stretch, game on the line,'' said Marks, a native New Zealander and career reserve in his ninth NBA season. "I'm not usually in the game at that time, but it was a chance for all of us to sort of rally around having all these guys out, which makes it tough, but at the same time it's a good opportunity for all of us.''

Rasual Butler scored 23 and reserve guard Devin Brown 14 for New Orleans, which won its second straight while handing Minnesota its third-straight loss.

Al Jefferson led Minnesota with 25 points and 14 rebounds, but had to be helped off the court inside the final 30 seconds with a right knee injury.

"I just came down wrong on it. I felt it pop,'' Jefferson said, adding that he hoped it wasn't serious. "I don't want to think about it until I get my X-ray tomorrow.''

New Orleans, already starting the game without All-Star Chris Paul (groin) and starting center Tyson Chandler (ankle), lost another All-Star when West was ejected late in the second quarter.

West was called for a flagrant-2 foul when he chopped down over the back of Mike Miller's shoulder as Miller attempted a fast-break layup. West's forearm caught Miller in the face, but Miller remained in the game.

Making matters worse, Peja Stojakovic, who hit seven 3s in a season-high 28-point performance in New Orleans' most recent victory Friday night, was only 1-for-10 from the field until late in the fourth quarter against Minnesota.

The Hornets escaped with the victory only because they got the best performances they've seen from Marks, acquired in the offseason, and point guard Antonio Daniels, who arrived in a trade after the season began. Daniels had 12 points and seven assists while starting for Paul.

Marks also had a block in the fourth quarter and finished with five rebounds and an assist in 24 minutes.

The Hornets got 42 points from reserves, including nine points from James Posey.

Jefferson had all of his points during the first three quarters. Swarmed by defenders in the final period, he got off only two shots and missed both. He then landed awkwardly on his right leg after attempting to block Marks' dunk attempt with 27.2 seconds to go. Jefferson was called for a foul on the missed shot, then hopped toward the sideline before falling to the floor.

Marks made only one free throw to put New Orleans up 95-94, then Marks fouled Minnesota's Randy Foye, who made both free throws to put Minnesota back in the lead with 16.8 seconds left.

Brown tried to respond with a drive inside while guarded by Sebastian Telfair and the ball popped loose - right to Marks in the paint, who quickly threw down a two-handed dunk.

"It was basically being lucky,'' Marks said. "That wasn't exactly the play. I wish I could say that was what we drew up.''

Minnesota then looked for a fast break the other way, but Telfair's cross-court pass sailed out of bounds behind Miller.

Minnesota was forced to foul and the Hornets got the ball to Stojakovic, who despite a lousy night from the field did not miss any of his seven free throws in the game and finished with 11 points.

"We had our chances; we just couldn't get over the hump,'' Minnesota coach Kevin McHale said. "We had a lead there at the end and I thought Sebastian played good defense. The ball just squirted out and Marks got the dunk.''

Minnesota's loss wasted a strong performance by Ryan Gomes, whose five 3-pointers were a career-high for a single game. Gomes finished with 21 points, while Telfair had 14 points and Kevin Love 12.

After scoring only one point in the first quarter, West appeared to be coming on strong in the second, when he scored eight points on several strong inside moves and a jump shot. But West seemingly lost his cool when he thought he was fouled while turning the ball over. As West ran back on defense, he committed the flagrant foul on Miller with 1:53 to go in the period.

The Hornets trailed 48-43 when West was thrown out, but pulled to 52-49 by halftime.

Notes: West's flagrant foul will be reviewed by the league and could result in a suspension. ... New Orleans plays at Memphis on Monday night, then hosts defending champion Boston on Wednesday night before breaking for All-Star weekend. ... The Timberwolves have lost six of seven games.


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