Martin’s career night leads Wolves past Knicks
By Dane Mizutani
Wolves coach Flip Saunders got a text from Kevin Martin at around 3:30 a.m.
Martin was sick and told his coach that there was a chance he was going to miss shootaround. He had been throwing up all night, and even though he experienced what he called one of the worst nights of his life, he said there was no chance he was going to miss the game.
“There wasn’t even a thought,” he said. “I realized the situation and know that guys work so hard … so there was never a thought of not playing.”
Minnesota was already shorthanded heading into the matchup against the New York Knicks. So much so that the Wolves couldn’t afford for Martin and Corey Brewer — who was also throwing up all night with a similar sickness — to miss the game.
Minnesota was without Nikola Pekovic, who missed with a wrist ailment, Thaddeus Young, who is still away following the team following the death of his mother, and Ricky Rubio who injured his ankle on the franchise long road trip and is out indefinitely. That, coupled with the fact that Ronny Turiaf missed the game as he continues to recover from his hip injury, and the Wolves needed all the help it could get against the Knicks.
Minnesota, fortunately, had Martin to shoulder most of the load, and the rest of the roster chipped in throughout the impressive 115-99 win over New York on Wednesday night at Target Center.
“I couldn’t even tell he was sick,” Muhammad said. “I didn’t even know.”
Martin said he actually felt good throughout the game and it definitely showed. He paced the team with a new Wolves career-high 37 points on 14-for-20 shooting from the floor and seemed to get hotter and hotter as the game progressed.
Martin was without a doubt the story of the night. That said Shabazz Muhammad was a darn nice subplot with his performance. Martin is known as a guy that can snap for a 30 piece from time to time. Muhammad, on the other hand, in his first career start, played out of position for most of the game and showed out with 17 points, 8 boards, and a handful of hustle plays that go beyond the stat sheet.
“He plays so hard,” Saunders said. “He’s relentless going to the glass. He’s relentless going to the basket. I feel like the more he plays the more comfortable he’s going to get.”
Muhammad had a couple plays that stood out — a boom on the fastbreak and a thunderous one-handed finish after a pretty lob pass from Corey Brewer in transition. Muhammad seemed happy with his performance after the game, grateful for the opportunity to start his first career game.
“I just tried to give us a boost right off the bat,” Muhammad said. “I just try to play as hard as I can … and I thought I did a pretty good job.”
In total the Wolves had five players in double digits as Corey Brewer had 14 points, Mo Williams poured in 14 points, too, and Andrew Wiggins added 12 points.
Martin said it was important to earn this kind of win after such a long road trip. He said Saunders put the team through one of the toughest practices he’s experienced in the last 10 years, and he saw it pay dividends throughout the game.
“We didn’t want another practice like this,” Martin said.
In the locker room after the game, Muhammad and Martin were some of the last few players as members of the media waited for interviews. Muhammad joked that Martin plays best when he’s sick. Martin was quick to defend himself, reminding Muhammad that he had just recently dropped 34 points — 3 points off his total from Wednesday night.
Martin said after the game that he won’t eat the food that got him sick ever again, and when the Wolves take on the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, he hopefully won’t have to get an IV before the tipoff.
“[Saunders] is going to try to get me to get an IV before every game,” Martin joked. “That ain’t happening.”
LEADER OF THE PACK
Kevin Martin finished with 37 points on the night. He set a new Wolves career high and nailed 7-for-11 shots from long range. Martin has been a top scorer on the team for most of this season and Minnesota needed his big game against the Knicks with a good chunk of its normal starters out of the game.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
In the second quarter Shabazz Muhammad collected a steal and pushed in transition with Corey Brewer running with him. Muhammad threw a nice bounce pass to Brewer streaking near the right side of the bucket and just when it looked like Brewer was about to go up for a layup — he almost always goes up for the layup — he threw a pass to the sky. Muhammad did the rest as he flew in from seemingly out of nowhere to pound home a thunderous one-handed slam that got the Target Center crowd on its feet.
-- Kevin Martin started 0-for-3 from the charity stripe. He entered Wednesday night ranked fifth in the NBA at 95.2 percent (40-of-42).
-- Minnesota, after giving up 139 points and 131 points in its previous two games, held New York to 51 points in the first 24 minutes of play. Carmelo Anthony led Knicks scorers with 18 points and Amare Stoudermire chipped in with 17 points.
-- Flip Saunders said before the game that he knew his squad was going to have to stay out of foul trouble as it entered Wednesday with three available post players. Minnesota did a pretty good job with that as Gorgui Dieng, Anthony Bennett, and Robbie Hummel all finished the first half with 2 fouls apiece.
-- Minnesota was a killer 8-for-13 from long range in the first half with Kevin Martin leading the way as he shot 4-for-5 from the beyond the arc. New York was also highly efficient as it hit 6-for-9 from three-point land.
-- New York gave away the game in the third quarter with an astounding 11 turnovers. Minnesota had 14 points off those turnovers in the frame to extend the lead to 93-73 heading into the fourth quarter.
Minnesota won’t get much rest after this matchup with the Knicks. It will practice on Thursday in preparation for a weekend back-to-back with the San Antonio Spurs and the Sacramento Kings. The Wolves will still be shorthanded in those games — especially in the frontcourt with Pekovic and Young still out. That might not be the best news as the Spurs boast legendary big man Tim Duncan and the Kings trot out emerging superstar DeMarcus Cousins. Minnesota will need to get production for across the lineup to compete in the next couple games.