Martin’s energy helps propel Wolves past Pistons

Kevin Martin's 24 points were an encouraging sign for the Timberwolves in Friday's win over Detroit.

Marilyn Indahl/Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Given Kevin Martin and Rick Adelman’s longstanding history together, it doesn’t take much coaxing for coach to get through to player.

So when the shooting guard’s offensive ferociousness is lacking, his longtime tutor doesn’t need to say a word.

"We’ve been at that point (since) probably seven years ago, where he doesn’t have to say too much to me," Martin said. "We both have a great understanding. I know what I need to do."

In his fourth outing since returning from a perturbing thumb injury, Martin sizzled in a quintessential performance vindicating Minnesota’s offseason sign-and-trade deal that reunited him with Adelman in a third different market. His 24 points against Detroit weren’t the most outstanding of his career — not even the season — but his 9-for-16 evening at the Target Center boasted both efficiency and vigor.

Martin didn’t wait for shots to come to him. He attacked the basket, exploiting pores in the Pistons’ defense with little or no hesitation.

That’s exactly what Adelman’s looking for as the Timberwolves (31-30) continue to hover on the edge of postseason contention — not just from Martin, whom he coached previously in Sacramento and Houston, but from the entire group in his charge.

"We have to be the aggressors," Adelman said before Friday’s contest. "We can’t sit back and think that we’re just gonna roll into a game. When we’re playing well, we jump on teams.

"I think Kevin’s a really prime example. He’s got to be aggressive in taking shots. He can’t hold the ball and massage it; he’s got to take his shots."

Martin did just that in Minnesota’s 114-101 win against the Pistons that keeps the 10th-place Timberwolves within five games of a playoff spot. They didn’t get any help from the rest of the West, as both Memphis and Dallas — eighth and ninth in the conference — won their games Friday.

A home victory Wednesday against New York on the same night both those teams fell would’ve pushed Minnesota closer, but a lethargic start ended up prohibiting that.

There were no such issues Friday in front of 16,242 spectators. Martin made sure of it.

"We came out with energy," he said. "We learned from the other night."

Wolves 114, Pistons 101

Eleven of Martin’s points came in the first quarter, all from the free-throw stripe or inside the 3-point line, and the Timberwolves led 39-21 entering the second — their league-leading 26th opening period with 30 or more points. Martin and fellow starters Kevin Love (28 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two steals), Nikola Pekovic (17 points, nine rebounds) and Ricky Rubio (11 points, nine assists, eight rebounds, three steals) and Corey Brewer (eight points, four assists) thought their work was done after three quarters, but the second unit allowed a once-31-point advantage to dwindle to 17 with 6:51 to go, so Adelman re-inserted his starting five.

That quintet and a 22-point bench effort in the second quarter built a 66-45 halftime lead. On the other end, Minnesota held the Pistons (24-38) to 40.4 percent shooting and big man Andre Drummond to six points.

Winners of seven of their last nine, the Timberwolves equaled their victory total from last season.

Martin was brought in to fill the scoring column and improve the NBA’s worst 3-point shooting mark in 2012-13. At 19.1 points per game and 38.8 percent from distance, he hasn’t done much to disappoint.

But a fractured knuckle bone in his left (non-shooting) thumb sidelined him for seven games from Feb. 8-25. While he was able to condition with the team during his absence, it took Martin some time to re-establish a rhythm once he got back on the floor.

In his previous three games since returning, Martin shot 40.5 percent and made just 3 of 14 3-pointers. His best work came at the free-throw line, where he ranks fourth in the league at 88.5 percent.

But Minnesota needed more. Still does, as Martin hasn’t hit more than two triples in a game since Feb. 4.

"When he’s going good, he’ll look for the quick 3 and everything," Adelman said before Martin went 1-for-5 from beyond the arc Friday. "When he’s not, he’s hesitant to do that."

Adelman coached Martin from his rookie season in 2004-05 through 2006-07, then had him again in Houston from midway through the 2009-10 season through the following campaign. The 23rd-year head man had a considerable say in Minnesota president of basketball operations Flip Saunders’ decision to ink the 2013 unrestricted free agent.

The impetus for Adelman’s endorsement: familiarity.

"He’s been in the league nine years," Adelman said. "He should figure it out at this point how to get himself going, and I thought he did it (tonight)."

Martin’s as comfortable with Adelman and his systems as any player on the Timberwolves roster. It’s evident daily, Love said.

"It’s just a trust in each other, especially on the offensive end," said Love, who tallied his NBA-best 51st double-double. "Between the two of them, they trust each other, they have a good relationship, and that helps us, too."

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