Love, Martin give Mavericks a double-Kevin headache
NOV 08, 2013 10:56p ET
If a fledgling mix of personnel is to alleviate the sorrows of the NBA's longest postseason drought, though, it's required in full supply.
"In this league, if you don't have somebody to go to and finish the game, you're gonna have a hard time," coach Rick Adelman said after his team's 116-108 victory over Dallas.
Friday night in front of 13,677 fans at the Target Center, the Timberwolves (4-2) were reassured they've got two. They share the same first name.
Kevin Love and Kevin Martin's newfound chemistry walled off a hot-blooded Mavericks comeback attempt as Minnesota snapped a two-game skid. The pair were good enough on their own -- 32 points each, Love finished two assists short of a triple-double -- but synchronized perfectly in the final minutes to put Dallas away.
When that happens, Martin said, "it just makes the defense not be able to focus on one guy."
With that in mind, Love came out of a timeout with 2:24 to go and told Martin exactly what to do.
"Just pick for me," 25-year-old Love told the senior member of the Timberwolves' roster. "I'm going to take this shot. I'll knock it down."
So Martin did, giving Love a short bounce pass behind the left elbow then stepping in front of Dirk Nowitzki, who matched up with Love all night. Monta Ellis got a hand in Love's line of sight, but not enough to prevent him from hitting a 24-foot 3-pointer. That sparked a ferocious sequence for Love, who tore down Ellis' missed layup at the other end and closed out the Timberwolves' next possession with a dagger-in-the-heart, fadeaway jump shot.
The two buckets accounted for Love's only points in the final period, but they extended Minnesota's lead to 110-102 with 1:13 to go, and the Mavericks never retaliated. Martin scored 12 points in the corner, including a 17-foot jumper that made for a double-digit cushion inside the final minute.
Two closers, apparently, are better than one.
"I think that everyone would agree that he is an easy guy to get along with both on and off the court," Love said of Martin. "We're gelling out there, going through plays in practice. I've mentioned it from the get-go that we're fortunate for him to have played in Rick's off-the-corner offense. He knows when to pick his spots.
"He's a shot taker and shot maker for us."
The pair said their relationship has blossomed since Martin signed as an unrestricted free agent this summer. Love, Martin said, was one of the main reasons he left behind Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Oklahoma City to rejoin Adelman in the Twin Cities.
"After playing with Kevin and Russell, guys that can score 30 in their sleep also, I wasn't going to another team without a superstar," said Martin, who played under Adelman in Sacramento and Houston. "That's what I have in Kevin Love."
Love continued his transcendence among the NBA's elite with the fourth 32-point, 15-rebound, eight-assist, three 3-pointer outing in league history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Showing off the uncanny transition passing that caused Dallas coach Rick Carlisle to tout him as a potential NFL quarterback -- "the guy can throw a chest pass 100 yards," Carlisle said after his team's morning shootaround -- Love had six helpers in the first quarter alone.
Four of them went to Brewer, Love's favorite target on the fast break who scored 13 of his 17 points in the opening stanza. If the lanky small forward hadn't failed on a pair of layups, Love would've had his first career triple-double.
"I knew that I was passing the ball well," Love said. "I knew I had a few assists, especially in that first quarter.
"But I hadn't really paid attention to it," Love added, then aimed a playful jab toward Brewer. "Other than Corey missing a couple damn layups."
The win puts the Minnesota back on track heading into a West Coast back-to-back against the Lakers and Clippers on Sunday and Monday. The Timberwolves "weren't up to par," Adelman said, in a lot of areas in losses to Cleveland and Golden State earlier in the week.
They had some hurdles again, especially in the first half when they were out-gunned 50 to 40 percent and trailed by a point at the break. Love and Brewer were a combined 12-for-22 from the field before halftime, while their teammates shot 8-for-38.
The starters mounted a 16-4 run in the third quarter to take an 11-point lead, but Minnesota yielded a 13-3 Mavericks jaunt that brought them back within one with a minute left in the period. Jose Calderon (21 points) hit back-to-backs 3s to spark the run.
But the Timberwolves scored the next five points, and a second unit that featured J.J. Barea (16 minutes, 18 seconds), Dante Cunningham (29:36) and rookie Robbie Hummel (10:57) in his first meaningful NBA action staved off Dallas for the first half of the final frame.
Off-the-bench forward Derrick Williams missed the game with back spasms, and backup center Ronny Turiaf missed his fourth contest while nursing a fractured right elbow.
"I decided to cut it, close it down," Adelman said of his rotation. "I just thought we had a day off tomorrow and I just wanted to get a rhythm in the second half. That's easier to do when you're only playing eight guys at the time."
After allowing Warriors guard Klay Thompson to break open a similarly close affair in the fourth quarter Wednesday, Minnesota bottled up Nowitzki. He scored 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting and mustered a mere four field-goal attempts the entire second half.
Love even emulated Nowitzki's patented one-legged, fading shot on his final-minutes dagger. It's been a common appearance in 50 career matchups with Minnesota for the NBA's No. 17 all-time scorer.
"Payback," Love joked.
This time, Love and Martin closed out their sixth contest in matching uniforms, providing their team hope that when it needs a finisher, there's one present in each front pocket.
"Late," Brewer said, "we can go to either one of those guys."
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