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Martin, Timberwolves gut out win vs. Knicks

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MINNEAPOLIS — Already playing severely short-handed, Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders got a text at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning from Kevin Martin. The veteran shooting guard was sick and wasn’t sure if he’d be able to get out of bed, much less report to Target Center for a game against the New York Knicks.

Martin took it easy at the shoot around and skipped pre-game warm-ups in an attempt to conserve energy, then went out and scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Timberwolves to a 115-99 win.

“Definitely one of the worst (nights of his life), it was up there,” Martin said. “I slept for about an hour in the middle of the night.”

But with the Timberwolves returning home from a six-game, 18-day road trip that spanned nearly 6,000 miles in the air through three states and two countries, Martin said he was in no matter what.

“There was never a thought of not playing,” Martin said. “You gotta get out there with your teammates and show them that you’re dedicated to be here.”

Martin tied a career high with seven threes and shot 14 of 20 from the floor. Averaging just over 18 points per game this season, Martin equaled that by halftime.

“We’ve had some guys dropping like flies,” Saunders said. “We really weren’t sure who was going to be ready to go tonight.”

Starting three youngsters in the front court, Saunders decided to go with veteran point Mo Williams with Martin in the backcourt. Making his first start of the season, Williams scored 14 points and had 13 assists.

“It made a big difference,” Saunders said. “We just thought it was better, from the perspective of the team and those three young guys, I didn’t want to put four young guys out there. It was important to get off to a good start, make some baskets and some defensive stands and keep it in the game early.”

Minnesota (3-7) led virtually all night, holding a 13-point edge at the break, a lead that eventually grew to 24 late in the third quarter.

New York (3-10) whittled that lead to 12 points with eight minutes remaining in the fourth, but back-to-back buckets, including Martin’s sixth three of the night, pushed Minnesota’s lead back to 17 points and forced Knicks coach Derek Fisher to call a timeout.

The Knicks never led by more than two in the early part of the first quarter and lost for the second night in a row. They lost 117-113 to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday night.

“Maybe some fatigue with it being back-to-back, but still just not understanding completely that that’s the end of the floor that has to get it done for us,” Fisher said. “”We’re shooting the basketball well, percentage-wise, our assist numbers are pretty good. We turned the basketball over too many times.”

Knicks forward Carmello Anthony, playing through a sore knee, led New York with 20 points on seven of 10 shooting from the field. Forward Amar’e Stoudemire added 19 points and three rebounds off the bench.

After starting the season 2-1, including a victory at Cleveland, the Knicks have now lost nine of their last 10 games.

“Kind of re-living the days over and over again,” Anthony said. “I just don’t want to get used to feeling this feeling, you know, losing basketball games, games that we should be winning. Just letting it slip out of our hands, regardless if it’s early in the season or not.”

For Minnesota, the victory was their first since a 98-91 win over Brooklyn on Nov. 5. The 115 points was their second-most in any game this season.

Timberwolves forward Shabazz Muhammad, making his first career start, scored 17 points and had eight rebounds. Forward Corey Brewer, also battling an illness, scored 14 points and had six steals. In all, five Timberwolves scored in double figures.

“Coming off a long road trip, it’s always tough to come home and play,” Saunders said. “The main thing was, we just went out there and played hard. I thought we had some great performances from a lot of guys.”

NOTES: Knicks SF Carmelo Anthony has been battling a sore knee but started Wednesday. Anthony denied reports of coach Derek Fisher sitting him out to rest on the second half of back-to-back games. His 20 points marked the seventh-straight game with at least 20 points. … New York turned the ball over 23 times, accounting for 28 Minnesota points. … The Timberwolves played without PG Ricky Rubio (ankle), C Nikola Pekovic (wrist), C Ronny Turiaf (hip) and PF Thaddeus Young, who is away from the team after the death of his mother. Timberwolves PG Mo Williams had 14 points and 13 assists for his first double-double of the season. … The 18 days between games for the Wolves was the longest span between home contests in franchise history.

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

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