In win over Detroit, Martin shows aggression Wolves must have from him
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Coach Rick Adelman didn't need to say anything to Kevin Martin for the message to get across.
Prior to tipoff against the Detroit Pistons on Friday, Adelman emphasized to the assembled media it was critical the Minnesota Timberwolves' veteran guard be aggressive with his shot from the start of the game and help set the tone.
The Wolves couldn't afford a repeat of their disastrous performance two days earlier against the Knicks -- a game in which Martin went 3-of-10 from the floor and scored 12 points.
"He's got to be aggressive in taking shots," Adelman said. "He can't hold the ball and massage it. He has to take his shots. When we do that we're just a much better team."
But Adelman refrained from mentioning the subject to Martin. There was no need. He knew exactly what his coach, who he has spent more than half his nine-year career with, was calling for.
Martin found his shooting rhythm early against the visiting Pistons, putting up 11 of his 24 points in the first quarter. He had the aggression Adelman was looking for, helping the Wolves quickly take command of the game.
"We've been at that point for about seven years, where he doesn't have to say much to me," Martin said with a grin. "We both have a great understanding ... And after my performance against the Knicks, I knew what I needed to do."
With Martin and Kevin Love anchoring the Wolves' outburst, the lead swelled to as much as 31 points by the third quarter.
A letdown effort by the bench in the fourth quarter gave the Pistons an opening to cut the deficit to 11 points with less than three minutes to go. That forced Adelman to put Martin and the starters back in, but the end result was exactly what the Wolves needed.
The 114-101 victory put them back over .500 (31-30) and allowed them to avoid losing ground in the Western Conference standings (wins by Dallas and Memphis kept Minnesota five games back of the West's final playoff spots).
Martin's outing was a reassuring sign for the Wolves after he had struggled to regain his form following his return last Saturday from three weeks out with a fractured thumb. In his previous two games, Martin shot just 28.5 percent (6-of-21), with 20 of his 34 points coming from the free throw line.
As the season has gone on, it has become increasingly apparent the Wolves desperately need consistent scoring out of Martin. Twenty of Minnesota's 31 wins this year have come when Martin scores 18 points or more.
If the Wolves want to have any chance in the season's final weeks at being a legit playoff contender, Martin has to play a vital role alongside Love.
"He's a guy that doesn't lack confidence, so when he's playing well our team is going to be better," said Love, who finished with a game-high 28 points. "It just gives us so much added firepower. When he's one, he's really helping us. We need K-Mart."