Pekovic's Board, Kirilenko's Blocks Help Wolves Ice 97-95 Win Over Hornets
How much did the Timberwolves miss injured players Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic?
The duo came up big and made a huge impact at the end of Sunday night’s game, as Pekovic made two free throws to take the late lead and Kirilenko had two game-saving blocks to seal a 97-95 win against the New Orleans Hornets.
"Andrei's block was unbelievable, actually both of them,” coach Rick Adelman said. “They told me I had to keep his minutes down … I had a feeling we were going to need him at the end of the game for a defensive play. Pek made two big free throws, and we needed them."
Wolves vs. Hornets
Down just one point late in the fourth quarter, Derrick Williams drove to the lane and lost the ball. Pekovic came up with the offensive rebound and headed to the free throw line, making both attempts and commanding the lead.
Just seconds later on the other end, Kirilenko blocked an Eric Gordon lay-up and then a Roger Mason jumper to prevent the Hornets from getting to the hoop before time ran out.
“Well, I was saving it,” joked Kirilenko. “With the game on the line and you need those defensive stops, you get in the mode like you don’t feel anything. Just concentrate on the ball.”
The Wolves’ offense was propelled by a career-high 28 points from Williams, as the second-year forward shot 9-for-16 from the field and canned three from long distance. Once known for struggling with his jump shot, he scored all over the court—down low, mid-range, from deep and from the charity stripe.
“Coach has been saying since the injuries started happening, he wants me to be more aggressive,” Williams said. “It felt like tonight I was picking and choosing my spots. If I’m open, I’m going to shoot it.”
The Hornets mounted a 13-0 run in the second quarter, but the Wolves climbed back and were down only two points going into halftime. By then, Minnesota was shooting 11-for-12 from the free throw line, an area they have struggled with all season.
In the second half, every time the Hornets were able to put a small run together, the Wolves were able to counter. Part of the resilience from Minnesota tonight was due to having two extra players in the rotation, a luxury for a squad that has been forced to play with just nine men for most of March.
“We had energy at the end, and that helped when we have more bodies,” Ricky Rubio said. “We can be more aggressive, and we don’t run out of energy in the last quarter, like what happened in Houston.”
Rubio was the second-leading scorer besides Williams, logging 16 points along with six assists. Pekovic recorded 13 points, and Luke Ridnour had 10.
New Orleans’ Greivis Vasquez—normally known for his assists—scored a team-high 24 points. Robin Lopez had 20, mostly off of tip-ins and high-percentage looks, and Anthony Davis dunked his way to 17 points and nine rebounds.
Leader of the Pack: Derrick Williams
After hitting only three from long distance in the last five games, Derrick Williams had already hit three of his first four from deep by the end of the third quarter. He finished with a career-high 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting, making tonight his 12th-straight double-digit scoring game and his seventh 20-point game of the year.
“I thought he was terrific tonight,” coach Adelman said of Williams. “He was very active taking the shots there. He is a threat at the three point. When he gets himself set and he catches the ball he has to be ready to shoot it. He just has to be ready to take his shot and not worry about it."
Play of the Game
Down one, Ricky Rubio came up with a steal in the third quarter around the 6:35 mark. He tossed the ball ahead of Luke Ridnour, who took a few dribbles before sneaking a behind-the-back pass to Derrick WIlliams. Williams slammed the ball through the hoop over Greivis Vasquez, giving the Wolves a 63-62 lead.
“AK is long and lanky, I think our best defender on defense. And Pek, our force down low, he just wears the big men out each and every night. I’m glad we have those two back.”—Derrick Williams on the return of Kirilenko and Pekovic to the lineup
Minnesota will travel to Memphis to face the Grizzlies Monday night. They will then take two days off before a road back-to-back against Sacramento (Thursday) and Phoenix (Friday).