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Butler, Marks lead shorthanded Hornets past Timberwolves

Feb 9, 2009 - 4:05 AM NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- With their stars reduced to the sidelines, the New Orleans Hornets had a pair of unlikely heroes step up.

Rasual Butler scored 23 points and Sean Marks added a career-high 18 as the shorthanded Hornets posted a 101-97 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.

Devin Brown scored 14 points and Antonio Daniels chipped in 12 for New Orleans, which played its third straight game without All-Star guard Chris Paul (groin) and its 10th consecutive contest without Tyson Chandler (ankle).

"(Minnesota) did a good job hitting some shots, but we believed that if we continued to play defense and rotate out for the rest of the night, eventually we would wear on them," Butler said. "We just needed to finish possessions with rebounds. We just continued to keep our confidence throughout the ballgame."

The Hornets were also without forward David West for the entire second half after the All-Star was ejected for a flagrant-2 foul on Mike Miller with 1:59 left in the second quarter. West clubbed Miller on his shoulder from behind as the Timberwolves swingman was driving to the basket.

In a back-and-forth final quarter, New Orleans trailed by one with 16 seconds left after Randy Foye made a pair from the foul line.

The Hornets answered to take the lead as Brown drove to the basket before losing control of the ball in the lane. Marks was on the spot to scoop the ball up and dunk it with ease to give New Orleans a 97-96 edge with 7.9 seconds to go.

"Thank God it popped right up to me and was an easy put back for me," said Marks, who had scored a total of 67 points this season prior to the game. "Whether he was fouled on the play or not, the refs didn't make the call, and the ball just popped right up there for me. It was pretty lucky really. It wasn't drawn up that way."

After a turnover by Sebastian Telfair, Peja Stojakovic made a pair of free throws to make it a three-point game, and New Orleans intentionally fouled Telfair with 1.8 ticks left to prevent a game-tying 3-point attempt. Telfair made the first but air-balled the second and Stojakovic made two more foul shots to seal the win.

Al Jefferson had 25 points and 14 rebounds before leaving with an injury to lead Minnesota, which has lost six of its past seven.

Jefferson came down awkwardly on his right leg after attempting to block Marks' shot with 27 seconds to play and grabbed his knee in extreme pain. He stayed down on the floor before being helped to the locker room, putting very little weight on his right leg.

The 24-year-old said afterward that it doesn't feel too severe, but the Timberwolves will give him an MRI on Monday if he continues to feel any discomfort.

"I just came down wrong on it," Jefferson said. "I don't want to think about it until I get my X-ray tomorrow. I felt it pop. Let's hope it's not as bad as it seemed."

Jefferson had gotten Minnesota off to a good start, scoring 11 points in the first quarter as the Timberwolves took a 31-24 lead.

The Timberwolves kept the Hornets at bay throughout the second quarter, but New Orleans closed within 52-49 at the break.

Ryan Gomes made three straight 3-pointers midway through the third quarter, but New Orleans continued to hang around. Marks' jumper with two seconds to play in the third cut the Hornets' deficit to 80-76 entering the fourth.

Brown made a 3-pointer from the right corner and later added a pair from the line to give New Orleans an 85-83 lead with 7:13 to play - the Hornets' first lead since the first quarter.

"(Down in the fourth quarter) I thought we had a real good opportunity to win the game," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "We just had to do a better job defensively and I thought we did."