Timberwolves starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko played 41 minutes in his first two games back from a strained calf that caused him to miss nine games before that.

Do a little division and that almost exactly hits the 20-minute nightly limit suggested for him when he returned.

Thing is, Wolves coach Rick Adelman asked Kirilenko to play nearly 25 minutes his first night back, and Kirilenko responded with two crucial blocked shots near game’s end that ensured a victory over New Orleans.

“I hedged a little bit,” Adelman said.

So on Monday in Memphis, Kirilenko played only 16 minutes, a decision borne out of common sense and a resounding loss more than it was a concession to head athletic trainer Gregg Farnam’s wishes.

“Is that right?” Adelman said after the game when told he almost adhered to that 20-minute limit if you average out the games. “Well, that’s good. That’s one accomplishment tonight.”

Starting center Nikola Pekovic played 24 minutes in each of the two games, his first back after he missed eight games because of an abdominal strain.

He provided a crucial offensive rebound and the winning free throws with 14.5 seconds left Sunday. But like Kirilenko and the other three starters, he didn’t play at all in Monday’s fourth quarter after the Wolves trailed by 25 points in the third quarter.

Pekovic called Monday’s game “tough, even tougher” than his first night back.

“I don’t have any pain, just my body and my conditioning,” he said. “It’s always different [getting into game shape].”

Whew ...

Count Pekovic among the many who held his breath when Ricky Rubio came hobbling to the bench in pain and then to the locker room late in Monday’s third quarter, only to declare himself perfectly fine and uninjured afterward even though he didn’t play the game’s final 15-plus minutes.

“Trust me, here all the time,” Pekovic said, referring to a season filled with injuries. “When you see so many injuries, when somebody leave the court, everybody’s like just waiting for them to come back. When he come back, we were like, ‘OK, it’s nothing serious.’ That was good.”

The Wolves didn’t practice Tuesday after playing games Sunday and Monday, but will do so Wednesday before they fly west for a quick two-game trip to Sacramento and Phoenix.