OKLAHOMA CITY – As homecomings go, Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin’s return to Oklahoma City on Sunday didn’t require a hankie or directions to the visitor’s dressing room.
But it was a homecoming of sorts nonetheless for a guy who played third fiddle to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for one season a year ago.
On Sunday, he scored 17 of his 24 points in the first half against his old teammates.
“It felt different playing in this building,” Martin said. “It was fun going up against that level of competition and going against guys you went through the grind with last year. It was a good night just to get it out of the way.”
Martin won 60 regular-season games with the Thunder last season after being traded to Oklahoma City in that big swap that sent James Harden to Houston.
“It was good, just seeing old faces around here,” he said. “I treasure my time here last year. It was good. I met some incredible people off the court and the way the team accepted me. … All in all, it’s a good feeling to be back. It was a very good year for me and my family.”
Martin played a reserve role in Oklahoma City and agreed to a free-agent offer with the Wolves last summer because the Thunder was financially strapped under the luxury tax and the Wolves offered him a chance to start again.
“I coached him when I was an assistant at Sacramento, and he played well for us here,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “He had a different role. He understood that and excelled at it. He won 60 games with that role and was happy with it. When you’re on a good team, you have to sacrifice. Everybody has to sacrifice and he was one of the guys who sacrificed.”
A second look
One night after he played 26 minutes in his Timberwolves debut and defended everyone in Dallas from Monta Ellis to Dirk Nowitzki, newcomer Luc Mbah a Moute drew Durant mostly as his defensive assignment Sunday. He played 17½ minutes, including six-plus in the fourth quarter. Durant scored 32 points against a variety of defenders.
“He’s a very solid NBA player,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said Saturday of Mbah a Moute. “He can guard multiple positions. He’s a sneaky scorer. It’s a good move for them. I see the logic for doing it. He fits in with how they play, gives them a different kind of player. [Corey] Brewer’s a good defender, but [Mbah a Moute] is a different body type. He’s a stronger guy.’’
Playing the percentage
Martin entered Sunday’s game second only to Nowitzki in NBA free-throw percentage, at 93.5 percent after his streak of 36 consecutive free throws made ended Saturday night. Ricky Rubio is shooting 86 percent and Kevin Love 81.6 percent.
“If we get to the line, we’re a much better team,” said Wolves coach Rick Adelman, whose team attempted 26 free throws to the Thunder’s nine but still lost by 10 points.
Difference a year makes
Love played his 19th game this season Sunday night, or one more than all last season when he broke his right (shooting) hand not once but twice.
In those first 18 games, he averaged 24.1 points on 44.5 percent shooting and 13.7 rebounds. Last season, he averaged 18.3 points on 35.2 percent shooting and 14 rebounds.