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Martin leads Timberwolves past Celtics

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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.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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