NEW ORLEANS — Jason Smith and Chris Kaman didn’t come into Saturday night’s game as the marquee frontline players.
No, that fell to Minnesota’s Kevin Love.
Name players aren’t everything, however, and Smith and Kaman combined to put the Hornets on their backs, carrying them to a 99-90 win over Minnesota.
Smith and Kaman were a combined 21 of 26 for 47 points with 20 rebounds, four steals and four blocks. Smith set a career-high with 26 points and grabbed 10 boards.
Minnesota’s Love finished with 29 points on 11 of 23 shooting and grabbed 12 rebounds.
But the Hornets shot 48.8 percent and outrebounded the Timberwolves by 15 boards. More importantly, they turned the ball over only six times in the second half after eight in the first half.
The Timberwolves made the Hornets (15-41) work for the win, however.
Minnesota answered a 14-0 Hornets run in the third with a 10-0 sequence of its own in the fourth quarter.
But New Orleans didn’t blink, finding ways to maintain the lead late.
Kaman’s five-point run gave New Orleans a 90-83 lead with 4:03 to play. But Michael Beasley’s deep 3-pointer answered.
The Hornets did what got them the lead, however, and that was go inside when they needed.
And Greivis Vasquez answered with a sweet spinning layup past the Timberwolves’ Wayne Ellington.
A Minnesota turnover led to a short-range jumper by Vasquez and the Hornets’ lead increased to 94-86.
Kevin Love’s 6-footer for Minnesota with two-and-a-half minutes to play briefly stopped the Hornets’ momentum.
Smith hit two free throws to give New Orleans a 96-88 lead and Minnesota never got any closer.
The Hornets now face the Lakers at home on Monday night.