Pek, Kirilenko free throws bring Wolves to win
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — For the past few weeks, Minnesota has gotten
more of the production from Derrick Williams they expected from the
former No. 2 overall draft pick.
On Sunday, the Timberwolves also got the
sort of team production they would’ve expected if their key players had
stayed healthy this season.
Williams scored a career-high 28 points,
and Minnesota got huge lifts in the final seconds from Nikola Pekovic
and Andrei Kirilenko and beat the New Orleans Hornets 97-95.
Pekovic and Kirilenko each hadn’t played
in more than two weeks because of injuries, but Pekovic hit two late
free throws after grabbing an offensive rebound with 14.5 seconds left,
and Kirilenko blocked the Hornets’ last two shot attempts.
“We had energy at the end and that
helped when we have more bodies,” said Ricky Rubio, who finished with 16
points and six assists, and completed a crucial three-point play in the
final minute that cut New Orleans’ lead to one. “We can be more
aggressive and we don’t run out of energy in the last quarter.”
Greivis Vasquez led the Hornets with 24 points and Robin Lopez had 20 points and 11 rebounds.
Minnesota shot 56.3 percent, but New
Orleans stayed within striking distance largely because of its work on
the offensive boards, scoring 20 second-chance points. Even on bad
misses, Lopez was there to rebound or tip the ball to a teammate to keep
But turnovers hurt as New Orleans committed 20 — leading to 18 points for the Timberwolves.
“I mean honestly, we turned the ball
over 20 times, they shot more free throws than we did, and we’re up four
with one minute left,” Vasquez said. “So no excuses, we just lost.”
The Hornets led by eight thanks to an
18-7 second-quarter run, but Minnesota stayed in it with some aggressive
play from Williams, who had his seventh 20-point game of the season and
tied a season high with three 3-pointers.
Williams found himself the subject of
several trade rumors this year after receiving sporadic playing time
under coach Rick Adelman. But he’s been surprisingly consistently
lately, which has led to steadier playing time with injured All-Star
Kevin Love still out with a broken hand.
“I really feel like I’m getting a lot
of my confidence back,” Williams said. “Not just shooting, just overall.
A lot of people have a lot of faith in me as well.”
Williams missed a couple of crucial
free throws late in the fourth quarter, though, and Vasquez made two 3s
to give the Hornets a three-point lead. But Rubio completed his
three-point play with 48 seconds left to pull Minnesota to 95-94.
“We had a chance to win the game,”
Hornets coach Monty Williams said. “We were up by four and we fouled a
guy going to the basket and gave them a three-point play. You can’t
explain that kind of stuff.”
After Gordon missed a mid-range jumper
on New Orleans’ ensuing possession, Pekovic was fouled on a tip and went
to the line. In his first game back from an abdominal strain, Pekovic
had been 1 for 4 from the line but sank both shots to give the Wolves
the lead with 14.5 seconds left.
On the Hornets’ next possession, Gordon
drove the lane but was blocked by Kirilenko, who had missed nine games
with a left-calf strain.
Kirilenko added one free throw and then blocked Roger Mason’s 3-point attempt as time expired.
“They told me I had to keep his minutes
down,” Adelman said. “I fudged it a little bit but I had to get him out
because I had a feeling we were going to need him at the end of the
game for a defensive play.”
Pekovic had 13 points and six rebounds. Kirilenko had eight points and
five rebounds. . . . Williams has scored in double figures in his last 12
games, the longest such streak of his career. . . . Hornets F Lou
Amundson made his first visit to Minnesota since being acquired on March