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

possessions alive.

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.”

Notes:

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

12.