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Fired-up Martin sparks Knicks to fourth straight win

The SportsXchange

NEW YORK -- They began the night singing "Happy Birthday" to their 40-year-old guard Jason Kidd before the game, but by the end of it, the New York Knicks and their fans were singing the praises of another ex-New Jersey Net.

Kenyon Martin again sparked the team he joined a month ago, stepping up Saturday night to provide big plays on both ends of the court and an intensity the Knicks have needed.

Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 28 points as New York earned a second straight win over the Toronto Raptors in a home-and-home matchup, with the Knicks picking up a 110-84 victory at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

Martin, who signed with the Knicks on Feb. 21, scored 18 points, had seven rebounds and energized the crowd as he had another successful night stepping in for injured center Tyson Chandler.

The Knicks (42-26) won their fourth straight game, following a four-game losing streak during a West Coast road trip.

"It is contagious, but again, all I have ever known of him is that he plays with high energy and sometimes that rubs off," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said of Martin, who, along with Kidd, led the Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances a decade ago. "Our defense has really picked up because he talks a lot and knows defensive rotations. He has been a major plus and I am glad he is in a Knicks uniform."

DeMar DeRozan scored 17 points to lead Toronto (26-44), which was without injured forward Rudy Gay. The Raptors, who trailed for nearly all of the game, dropped their fourth straight, including their second in as many nights to the Knicks.

Kyle Lowry and Alan Anderson added 14 points apiece for Toronto, but Lowry was limited after banging knees with Kidd in the second quarter, with coach Dwayne Casey saying the team would have to examine Lowry to see how he held up.

The Raptors as a whole could have a tough time holding up as the losses continue to come.

"That's a challenge, that's a challenge," Casey said of holding the team together. "Tell them the checks are still coming the first and the 15th ... We're building for next year."

The Knicks entered the fourth quarter up 82-67, thanks to nine points from Anthony and seven from Martin in the third, then cruised through the fourth for the victory.

Martin, who scored 19 points and had 11 rebounds against the Raptors in Toronto on Friday night, started helping the Knicks pull away with his energetic close to the first half Saturday.

He all but took over on both ends of the court in the final three minutes, helping the Knicks build a 12-point halftime lead while inspiring the Garden crowd to chant his name.

The spurt started with a thunderous dunk on a put-back with 2:29 left that sent the Knicks up 50-43 and left Martin shaking and howling when he landed.

A little more than a minute later, Martin put down another slam off an alley-oop from Kidd for a 56-47 lead.

Then Martin smacked away a shot at the other end of the court, prompting "oohs" from the crowd, which increased when Iman Shumpert followed with his own block a moment later. Martin finally came back down to score on a layup and a foul with seven seconds left in the half. That gave the Knicks a 59-47 lead and the fans rewarded Martin by chanting his name in appreciation.

"That is how I play basketball," Martin said of letting out his emotion. "I try to provide more energy and do what I can. The fans appreciate what I do. It is always great to hear it from the fans."

Despite the energy lift he provides, Martin is expected to go back to the bench when Chandler returns, but he said he was fine with that and just wanted to help in any way he could and continue to play.

But Martin, who spent most of the season's first four months without getting a phone call from an NBA team, showed just how much he believed he could still contribute by responding to a playful exchange with ex-Denver Nuggets teammate Linas Kleiza. The ex-teammates had a jawing session right before Martin's spurt entering halftime.

"That's my guy; it was fun in the game," Martin said of Kleiza. "He said to me, 'You lost it.' I said, 'I'm gonna prove I've still got it.'"

NOTES: Knicks rookie forward Chris Copeland took to center court before the game and led the fans in a chorus of "Happy Birthday" as Kidd listened and laughed. Kidd later said he appreciated the thought by the Knicks, and was glad to celebrate his birthday with a win, but he also hoped his old California team would knock off teammate Anthony's Syracuse team and the players acknowledged they had done some trash-talking. ... Chandler (neck) missed his sixth straight game and was listed as day to day. ... Gay, who left Friday's game early due to his back issue, did not travel with the Raptors. ... Anthony, who had recently missed six of eight games due to a knee injury, played 43 minutes in Friday's win over the Raptors. Before Saturday's rematch, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said he wanted to limit Anthony to 32 or 33 minutes and he ended up playing 30. Anthony said after the game his knee held up well and that he was just working on getting his explosiveness back. ... The back-to-back games against the Knicks marked the Raptors' first such home-and-home matchup of the season.
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