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Timberwolves-Rockets Preview

AP - Sports

Houston's Kevin Martin bounced back from one of the worst shooting nights of his career with one of his best of the season. The Rockets hope he can build on the performance as they host an opponent that has given them some trouble in 2011-12.

The Rockets and Timberwolves could be on edge Friday night after the last two games between the two grew testy.

Houston (17-13) avoided a third straight loss with a 96-95 home win over Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City on Wednesday. Martin matched a season high with 32 points and hit the winning free throws with 23.6 seconds remaining.

"It's not even about the points," Martin said. "Yesterday we got beat and that wasn't pleasant. Tonight it was good to be out there and it was a total team effort starting with our preparation."

Martin was held scoreless in 19 minutes the night before in a 93-83 loss at Memphis - the first time in his career he failed to score as a starter. Although he had 28 points against Golden State on Sunday, the Rockets' leading scorer averaged 3.2 points and shot 17.2 percent during the other five games of his team's 3-3 road trip.

Coach Kevin McHale said before Wednesday's game that Martin needed to be more aggressive after he attempted three shots against the Grizzlies. The guard responded by going 10 of 18 against the Thunder.

"He was phenomenal, he really played well," McHale said. "I talked to Kevin a little bit on the plane last night and said we've got to do a better job and I think he understands too that, as a player, it's always incumbent upon you to try to come out and try to get (going). You've got to try to work your way into the game and play well."

One of Martin's poor performances during the trip came in a 100-91 loss to Minnesota on Feb. 4, when he was held to two points on 1-of-10 shooting.

Martin's lack of accuracy wasn't the only ugly element of that game. Timberwolves forward Kevin Love stepped on the face and chest of Houston's Luis Scola after knocking him to the ground on a drive in the second half.

Love was suspended two games for the incident, the second between the two players that week. In a 120-108 Minnesota win Jan. 30, Love took a pass from Scola in the groin, though Love denied what happened five days later was about retribution.

Love has been on a tear since returning from suspension, hitting the 30-point mark three times in four contests while averaging 18.0 rebounds in the last three games.

He had 30 points and 18 boards Wednesday to help the Timberwolves (14-16) snap a four-game losing streak with a 102-90 win over Charlotte. Minnesota trailed by two at halftime but outscored the Bobcats 30-18 in the third quarter.

"We knew if we were able to go on one of our runs, they weren't going to be able to fight back and get a win against us," Love said. "We were happy to get this one. We surely needed it."

Love is averaging 31.0 points against the Rockets this season. He scored a season-high 39 while going 13 of 19 from the field in a 107-92 home defeat to Houston on Jan. 23.

The Timberwolves have won their last two against the Rockets after losing 15 of 16 matchups.

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