MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves know how hard it is to win games when a team's best players are in suit coats rather than uniforms.
Two of Minnesota's top big men were back in action Sunday, and the result gave a glimpse of what might have been. The returning players, Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic, provided the key moments down the stretch in the Timberwolves' 97-95 victory over the New Orleans Hornets.
Pekovic made two free throws that gave Minnesota the lead for good, and Kirilenko blocked shots on each of the Hornets' final two possessions.
Both players saw action for the first time this month. Kirilenko missed nine games due to a calf strain, and Pekovic missed eight because of an abdominal strain.
"Andrei's block was unbelievable, actually both of them," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. "Pek made two big free throws, and we needed them."
The result was a much-needed victory for the Timberwolves, who had dropped two in a row and 10 of 12. New Orleans has lost eight of 10.
Derrick Williams led Minnesota (23-41) with a career-high 28 points and seven rebounds, while Ricky Rubio added 16 points and Pekovic had 13.
Greivis Vasquez scored 24 points for New Orleans (22-45), while Robin Lopez added 20 and 11 rebounds. Anthony Davis finished with 17 points and nine boards.
That Kirilenko and Pekovic were able to make key plays at the end of the game was unexpected.
"I played basically without any basketball practice," Kirilenko said. "This was my practice. It is the first 5-on-5 action I have seen in like three weeks, and it is very tough. I feel like I'm a step short or a step slower."