Smith, Kaman lead Hornets past Timberwolves
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — After playing nearly 36 minutes, Jason Smith needed extra time to cool down.
Smith had a career-high 26 points and matched his high with 10 rebounds, leading the New Orleans Hornets to a 99-90 victory over the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves. He then spent much longer than usual in an ice tub before showing up at his locker room stall more than a half-hour later.
"I definitely was feeling the minutes," he said after playing 35:59, close to his career high. "The minutes kept me a little bit longer in the ice tub tonight, but for me it's really just to go out there and play hard."
Prodding from irate Hornets coach Monty Williams helped, too. Smith had his third career double-double, made his first eight shots and finished 12 for 16. Chris Kaman added 21 points on 9-for-10 shooting and Greivis Vasquez had 10 assists as New Orleans bounced back from its most lopsided loss of the year, 128-104 at San Antonio on Friday.
"Coach got us riled up," Smith said. "He got on us a lot because the way that we played in the San Antonio game was embarrassing to say the least. We just did not bring it yesterday, and coach really sent a message to us to step up our game."
Kevin Love had 29 points and 12 rebounds for Minnesota, which lost its fifth in a row and 13th in its last 17. Michael Beasley, who was questionable with a toe injury that sidelined him for the previous five games, added 20 points.
Love, guarded primarily by Smith, needed 23 shots to get his total and barely beat Smith on the boards.
"He (Smith) did against the power forward in the game, which says a lot about Jason to come up with a double-double," Williams said. "He comes out tonight, he stroked the ball, he was rebounding, he knew his assignments on defense and he just made plays that helped us win the game."
New Orleans went ahead for good with a 12-0 run late in the third quarter and led by as many as 12. Minnesota pulled within two twice in the fourth.
The Timberwolves quickly erased almost all of that 12-point deficit to start the fourth quarter. Beasley scored seven points during a 12-2 run in the first 4 minutes, capping it off with a 3 from the top that closed the gap to 81-79 and forced New Orleans to take a timeout with 8:04 left.
New Orleans stretched its lead to 90-83 when Kaman hit two free throws and converted a three-point play off a putback before Beasley sank another 3 to make the score 90-86.
Vasquez scored on a driving layup through and a floater in the lane as the Hornets went up 94-86 with 2:53 left. The Timberwolves' only points in the last 3:40 came on Love's bank shot.