MINNEAPOLIS — If there is one thing Kevin Martin is good at, it’s making baskets.
Martin returned from a fractured wrist Wednesday and scored a game-high 21 points, leading the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 110-98 win over the Boston Celtics at Target Center.
“I’m just a scorer,” martin said. “At the end of the day, I can put it in the hole. It felt good early on to see a couple go in.”
The victory snapped a 10-game home losing streak for Minnesota, which has won an NBA-low eight games overall this season.
Martin came off the bench and entered the game with 5:11 remaining in the first quarter, seeing game action for the first time since mid-November. He promptly knocked down an 18-foot jumper and scored seven first-quarter points as the Timberwolves led by four after one.
“It gives you a better balance,” Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. “We had seven guys in double figures; (assistant coach) Sam (Mitchell) asked me ‘When was the last time we had that,’ probably the first three or four games of the year when we had Ricky (Rubio) and everyone else in there.”
Rookie guard Zach LaVine, starting in place of veteran Mo Williams, added 17 points and six assists for the Timberwolves. Forward Gorgui Dieng scored 16 points and had 14 rebounds for his 12th double-double.
Boston (16-28) went on an 8-0 run to finish the first half and grab a one-point lead at the break. Center Brandon Bass and guard Avery Bradley led the Celtics with eight first-half points apiece.
But LaVine came out scorching hot in the second half, scoring the first six points of the third quarter as Minnesota began the half on a 10-0 run. LaVine scored 13 points in the third quarter as the Timberwolves led by seven headed to the fourth.
“They were playing well,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “They made plays, they shared the ball, they were the aggressor. You go through all the adjectives there and we didn’t provide enough resistance.”
Reserve guard Marcus Thornton scored six points through the first four minutes of the final quarter, pulling Boston to within four points of Minnesota with eight minutes to play.
But Martin countered with a pair of 3-pointers sandwiched around a three-point play to push Minnesota’s lead back to double digits and giving the Timberwolves their largest lead of the night at 95-82.
Martin finished 7 of 18 from the floor and played 29 minutes in his return.
“I wasn’t tired in the fourth,” Martin said. “I was hitting shots.”
“That’s K-Mart, that’s what he does,” said Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins. “That’s what he’s known for. He’s one of the best scorers in the league. We know what we’ll get from him every night.”
Minnesota (8-37) had seven players finish in double figures, including all five starters. Forward Thaddeus Young had 12 points and nine rebounds and center Nikola Pekovic added 14 points. Wiggins scored six of his 12 points in the final quarter to help close out the win.
Celtics rookie guard Marcus Smart was 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, keeping Boston in the game until the fourth quarter. He finished with 12 points.
Seven Boston players also scored in double figures, led by forward Jared Sullinger, who had 16 points. Thornton added 15 points for the Celtics, who finished their season-high, six-game road trip 3-3.
Smart, Thornton and forward Tayshaun Prince all came off the bench to provide an offensive spark. Prince added 12 points in nearly 23 minutes of action.
“They gave us a tremendous boost,” Sullinger said of Boston’s bench play. “Marcus came off the bench and played well, Smart played well, Tayshaun’s been giving us great minutes.”
NOTES: Celtics F Kelly Olynyk missed the game with a sprained right ankle. Olynyk had a team-leading 21 points in a 114-98 win against Minnesota on Dec. 19 in the teams’ other meeting this season. … The Timberwolves signed G Lorenzo Brown to a 10-day contract. Brown had been playing with the Grand Rapids Drive of the NBA Development League. … Boston returns home for a game against the Houston Rockets on Friday. … Minnesota hits the road for one game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday before returning home to host former Wolves F Kevin Love and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday.
Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair
If James Harden needed any extra motivation against the Los Angeles Clippers, he found it in the first half.
Harden scored 34 points, and the Rockets held on for a 100-98 victory over the Clippers in a sometimes testy affair on Sunday at Staples Center.
Point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points, missed a contested shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.
“It was very important for us just to go out there and play well,” said Harden, who hit seven of 16 shots from the floor, three of five from 3-point range and 17 of 18 free throws. “The last two games we kind of struggled a little bit, but we got our pop back a little bit today, and it was a good win for us.”
Harden provided much of that pop, particularly in the second quarter after Clippers forward Matt Barnes was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after pushing Harden to the court at 6:02. Harden scored 15 of his 18 points in the period after that, leading the Rockets to a 58-50 halftime lead.
Did the flagrant foul add more fuel for the Rockets’ All-Star guard and MVP candidate?
“Yeah. Things like that are fun,” said Harden, who had 24 points in the first half. “We have fun, we got boosted off of that.”
The win ended a two-game skid for the Rockets (44-22). Houston forward Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while forward Terrence Jones added 16 points and 12 boards.
“This was a win that we needed, especially on the road,” Ariza said. “Going into the home stretch, these are the types of games we have to win.”
Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin returned after missing 15 games due to surgery on his right elbow. Griffin had 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but committed five turnovers in 41 minutes.
“I didn’t think I played well,” said Griffin, who managed 4-of-10 shooting. “I was out of rhythm. Way too many turnovers, obviously.”
Barnes scored 19 points and guard J.J. Redick had 15 for the Clippers (42-24), who fell into a tie for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings with the Dallas Mavericks.
Paul lamented a host of turnovers in the defeat, including a critical one involving center DeAndre Jordan.
“I had some bad turnovers,” said Paul, who committed three of the Clippers’ 20 miscues compared to 13 for the Rockets. “On one, I drove it off DeAndre’s foot, the other one I lost towards the end of the half. We have to take better care of the ball. We still had an opportunity to win, but we just didn’t do it.”
The Clippers came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Paul scored seven straight points, capping it with a 3-point basket to tie the score at 96 with 3:05 left in the game. Houston got a 3-pointer by Jones, but Barnes countered with a basket to keep Los Angeles within 99-98 with 1:35 left. Los Angeles, though, never scored again.
Griffin got a steal as Ariza attempted a pass to Harden, but Ariza drew a charging foul as Griffin bolted to the bucket with 12 seconds remaining. Griffin remained unhappy about the call after the game.
“If I speak on that, I’ll get fined,” Griffin said.
Harden hit one of two foul shots with 8.9 seconds left, capping the scoring before Paul failed to connect on a jumper in the lane with Ariza defending.
The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 36-20 in the second quarter despite making just 38.5 percent of their shots compared to 44.4 percent for the Clippers. Overall, the Clippers hit 43.9 percent to 37.2 percent for the Rockets. They also held an edge in 3-point shooting, converting 12 of 26 attempts to seven of 30 for Houston. The Rockets, though were 29 of 36 from the foul line to 14 of 24 for Los Angeles.
Jordan finished with 20 rebounds and four blocks.
NOTES: F Blake Griffin’s return benefits PG Chris Paul as much as any Clipper. “Teams have been able to trap (Paul) far more than they can when Blake is on the floor because of (Griffin’s) ability to pass,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m sure CP is the happiest of all to have him back.” … Rivers isn’t sure if injured G Jamal Crawford would return before the playoffs. Crawford has missed six games with a right calf contusion. … Rockets C Dwight Howard sat out his 18th game with a right knee edema. “He’s doing everything he can, he’s trying to get better, but until you’re on the floor, it’s impossible to say,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said regarding Howard’s return. … Both clubs resume play Tuesday. Houston hosts the Orlando Magic, while Los Angeles plays the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center.
Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle
SAN ANTONIO — Guard Manu Ginobili was helped off the floor late in the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday due to a sprained right ankle.
Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points. He was immediately was led to the locker room, and he did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court. He did not return to the game.
In 19 minutes during the Spurs’ 123-97 win over the Timberwolves, Ginobili scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and leading him to play limited minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.
NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return
Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, out the last 15 games with an elbow injury, was cleared to return Sunday against the Houston Rockets.
Griffin had surgery five weeks ago to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.
“He said, ‘I’m ready,'” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game. “Yesterday the trainers called me and said, ‘If he can go, he can go. He’s been cleared.'”
Rivers said timing likely will be an adjustment for Griffin.
“Timing is timing,” Rivers said. “You lose it when you don’t play in an NBA game. Sometimes you come back and you play great the first game and then you lose your timing. Sometimes it doesn’t. As far as the way we play, it won’t be hard for him at all.”
In 51 games this season, Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
–Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had to be helped off the floor late in the third quarter against Minnesota on Sunday. Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points.
He was helped off the floor and immediately was led to the locker room. He did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court.
Up to that point, Ginobili had scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against Toronto and play limited minutes against Cleveland on March 12.
–Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr sent emails to three fans who were disappointed that he rested several prominent players, including All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in Friday’s loss to the Nuggets in Denver.
“There’s two really good sides to the story,” Kerr said, according to the Associated Press report. “Nobody’s wrong here. … I can’t argue with them.”
Kerr received an email from a family that drove from South Dakota to Denver to see Curry, Thompson and the entertaining Warriors play. But Curry, Thompson, center Andrew Bogut and reserve guard Andre Iguodala did not play so they could be rested, and the Warriors lost 114-103.
“I heard from some fans. I received a few emails, stories about driving in from a long distance off and spending a lot of money on tickets,” Kerr said. “I have great sympathy for those people. I really do. It’s a tricky one. It’s something that I think Adam Silver is trying to address through the scheduling shuffling that he’s talking about.
–The Dallas Mavericks recalled center/forward Dwight Powell from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Powell played in one game during his most recent assignment to the D-League and finished with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists to lead the Legends in a 115-89 win over the Austin Spurs on Saturday night.
Powell has appeared in 19 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.
–The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a 10-day contract Sunday.
Daye appeared in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.
In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes.
–The Miami Heat recalled guard Zoran Dragic from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
Zoran appeared in four games (one start) and averaged 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.50 steals, helping the Skyforce to a 3-1 record over that span.