Martin’s return sparks T-wolves over Celtics
Kevin Martin had not played in more than two months, a fractured wrist forcing him to watch from the bench as his Minnesota Timberwolves plummet to the bottom of the standings.
In his first chance to get back in the lineup, he didn’t waste any time showing the Wolves what they were missing.
Martin scored 21 points in his return from a 34-game absence and Gorgui Dieng added 16 points and 14 rebounds to lift the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 110-98 victory over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night.
"I’m just a scorer, at the end of the day," Martin said. "I can put that thing in the hole. It felt good early on to see a couple go in. Then I went through a little stretch, knocked a little rust off, and then got back at it in the fourth."
Zach LaVine added 17 points and six assists and Martin scored nine straight points during a crucial stretch of the fourth quarter to help the Timberwolves (8-37) snap a 10-game losing streak at Target Center. The Wolves had not won at home since beating Portland on Dec. 10.
Jared Sullinger had 16 points and eight rebounds and Marcus Thornton scored 15 for the Celtics, whose promising road trip ended with a thud.
"If you want to make it to where we’re trying to make it, these games cannot happen," said Sullinger, whose Celtics were two games out of the eighth seed in the East when the day started. "These types of games cannot happen."
Martin had been out since Nov. 21 with a fractured right wrist that required surgery. He came off the bench in his first game back, hit the first jumper he took and kept right on shooting. He made 7 of 18 in 28 minutes, hit two 3-pointers and converted a three-point play midway through the fourth that turned a four-point lead into a 13-point advantage.
Thaddeus Young added 12 points and nine rebounds and Nikola Pekovic scored 14 points for the Wolves, who were missing Mo Williams for personal reasons.
The Celtics were playing the final game of a six-game road trip that started on Jan. 19. They missed the big snowstorm back home, and showed some growth with victories over Portland, Denver and Utah. But they didn’t have the legs to finish the trip on a high note.
"I think at this point, everybody’s tired," Celtics guard Evan Turner said. "So the biggest thing is to be strong mentally, go through it."
LaVine had all sorts of trouble with Avery Bradley’s dogged defense in the first half, but he got going with a couple of dunks and scored 13 points in the third quarter to help the Timberwolves build a 13-point lead.
The smaller Celtics couldn’t handle Minnesota’s size up front. Dieng dominated the glass and Pekovic demanded double teams every time he touched the ball, which opened up the rest of the offense. The Wolves had seven players in double figures.
"It felt good. This was like an emotional game seeing what your guys have been through in the past couple months, what people say about your squad and certain players," Martin said. "It’s always a feel-good type of thing when you’re a big part of a win."
Celtics: Coach Brad Stevens said he wasn’t sure if F Kelly Olynyk (sprained ankle) would be healthy in time to participate in the Rising Stars game at All-Star weekend. Olynyk was voted to the World team. … Marcus Smart, a rookie first-round draft pick, was flattened by the bruising Pekovic on a screen in the first half. But he shook it off and finished with 12 points and six assists.
Timberwolves: Coach Flip Saunders said he was hopeful Ricky Rubio (ankle) could return sometime next week. He has not played since Nov. 7. … The Wolves had four players named to the Rising Stars game: LaVine, Dieng, Andrew Wiggins and Shabazz Muhammad.
Lorenzo Brown came up from the D-League and signed a 10-day contract on Wednesday. He scored a career-high 11 points in 24 minutes and played the entire fourth quarter to help the Wolves pull away.
"I’m hungrier than ever right now," Brown said. "The past year I’ve been working and trying to get myself better and prepare myself for this moment right here. I feel like it’s the right opportunity."
Celtics: Host Houston on Friday.
Timberwolves: Visit Philadelphia on Friday.