SACRAMENTO (AP) — Having played six seasons with the Kings, Kevin Martin is very comfortable at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.
He showed it again Saturday night, scoring 26 points to help the Minnesota Timberwolves reach .500 with a 108-97 win over the Kings.
Returning after missing Minnesota’s last seven games with a broken left thumb, Martin fell into a groove from the start, making his first four shots and scoring 19 first-half points.
“I feel like basketball is the easy part,” said Martin, who is 5-0 in games at Sacramento since being traded to Houston in the 2009-10 season. “I remember getting hurt before and coming right back with good games, so this didn’t surprise me.”
Martin was a late first-round draft pick who blossomed with the Kings. His first head coach was Rick Adelman, now Minnesota’s coach. The time spent in Sacramento is something Martin savors.
“I take pride in coming back here and trying to play well. Sacramento is like my second home,” he said. “The fans here saw me grow from a guy who played 10 minutes a game as a rookie and is now a 10-year veteran.”
It was the second straight win and fifth in six games for the Timberwolves (29-29).
Trailing by three points at the half, Minnesota outscored the Kings 31-17 in the third quarter, opening the frame with nine straight points and never relinquishing the lead.
Kevin Love added 22 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for Minnesota, and Nikola Pekovic had 20 points and nine rebounds. Corey Brewer scored 13.
DeMarcus Cousins had 21 points and 17 rebounds for the Kings in his return from a one-game suspension. Rudy Gay had 22 of his 24 points in the opening half and Isaiah Thomas had 22 points and eight assists in Sacramento’s third straight loss.
The Kings committed 19 turnovers, including six in the third quarter that led to numerous fast-break opportunities for the Timberwolves.
“For whatever reason we just continue to beat ourselves,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “Nineteen turnovers and 27 points? Good teams don’t beat themselves. So it’s very hard in the same game to beat your opponents and yourself and we did that tonight.”
It was a rare off night for Love, who averaged 34 points and 14 rebounds in seven February games. He shot 4 of 12, but converted 12 of 14 free throws.
But Love received plenty of help from Martin and Pekovic, who sat out the last 13 with a right foot he injured Jan. 27 at Chicago.
“It was way more than I expected,” Pekovic said of his 28 minutes. “I was trying to be productive and had to push myself. I’m told the (ankle) pain will be there all the time.”
Cousins was suspended one game for punching Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley on Tuesday and fined $20,000 as part of the incident in which he verbally abused official Courtney Kirkland and failed to leave the court in a timely manner.
Cousins leads the NBA with 15 technicals this season. One more and he will be suspended for one game under NBA rules.
The Kings are winless in the 10 games Cousins has missed this season.
“My biggest disappointment is the first quarter and the third quarter,” Cousins said. “We let them get a hot start in the first quarter and the same thing with the third. Coming out of that third we had to dig ourselves out of ditch.”
Thomas made consecutive baskets to get the Kings within 97-95 with 2:09 remaining.
But Pekovic converted two free throws and Rubio hit a 3 to give the Timberwolves some breathing room at 102-95 with 53.4 seconds left and Minnesota closed it out from the free throw line.
NOTES: Kings reserve forward Carl Landry missed his second straight game with a sore right knee. ... Sacramento shot 70 percent in the first quarter and led 31-30. ... Adelman was head coach for eight seasons with the Kings and his teams made the playoffs every year. Sacramento hasn’t made the playoffs since Adelman was fired following the 2005-06 season. ... The Timberwolves are 3-1 on their road trip, which concludes Monday in Denver.