Too often Wednesday night, Kevin Martin chose to shoot from long range instead of attack, and he wasn’t making enough of them. Through four quarters of the Timberwolves’ season opener, Martin scored 16 points, but needed 17 shots to do it.
“Thanks to Kevin Love,” Martin said. “He said he was going to give me another chance in the overtime, and that’s what he did. I couldn’t let him down for the fifth straight quarter.”
After Love hit his 25-foot three-pointer near the end of regulation to force overtime, Martin did what he was signed to do — close out a game. Martin, 4-for-17 through regulation, was 2-for-2 in the overtime and scored seven points as the Wolves rallied to beat Orlando 120-115 at Target Center.
Included in Martin’s performance was perhaps the second-biggest play of the game. The Wolves led by three with 3:46 to play in overtime after Nikola Pekovic’s three-point play. After an Orlando bucket cut the lead to one, Martin — moving right to left — took a pass from Love and was bumped hard by rookie Victor Oladipo. Knocked off balance, Martin squared his body in the air and drained a 17-footer. Then he hit the free throw, putting the Wolves up 111-107 with 2:35 left.
He added another 18-footer just over a minute later, and he hit two free throws with 24.3 seconds left. His late-game ability was one of the things the Wolves were looking for when they signed Martin to be the tall shooting guard the franchise needed so much.
“I know I’m capable of that,” Martin said. “I’ve done that throughout my career. But I don’t want to be in that situation too much, so I have to hit shots throughout the game.”
Starting from the start
On a night all about fresh, shiny beginnings, the opener was all new for Ricky Rubio. Wednesday’s extravagant pregame ceremony was the first time in his three-year NBA career that he was introduced as a starter at the first home game.
Luke Ridnour started for the first few weeks of Rubio’s rookie season two years ago. Last season, he was still recovering from knee surgery on opening night while he sat beside Love, also in street clothes because of a broken hand.
“I remember that feeling, sitting on the side with Kevin watching the video, and I remember watching him and feeling a little painful,” Rubio said. “Watching our teammates going out there and we couldn’t be with them.”
One of Rubio’s agents, Jarinn Akana, was in town for the game. By this time next year, Rubio could have a rich contract extension of his current rookie contract. He is eligible to sign one before the start of next season.
Brewer in the lineup
Coach Rick Adelman finally picked his starting small forward for the opener, mostly out of necessity: Corey Brewer, who started the first four preseason games before Adelman experimented with Derrick Williams, Robbie Hummel and Dante Cunningham at that position in the final three games.
Adelman said that might change when the Wolves play Oklahoma City on Friday or New York on Sunday.
Williams didn’t play a second in the opener of his third NBA season, an absence Adelman attributed to a three-guard configuration the Magic uses with its second unit.
Adelman countered by playing three guards himself while Cunningham played behind Love at power forward. Adelman hinted before the game that somebody might not get off the bench, but assured everyone in his rotation will play in the season’s opening games.
“They made the solution who was coming off the bench real easy they had three guards out there,” Adelman said. “I could even figure that out.”