Cartier Martin had waited all season for memorable game in which he came off the bench, knocked down shots from long distance and Coach Randy Wittman had the confidence to keep him on the floor.
That moment finally arrived on Saturday at Oracle Arena, where the Wizards were flat, in desperate need of an energy injection on the second end of back-to-back games, and the steady exodus of players on a grueling road trip included John Wall getting ejected.
Playing a season-high 30 minutes, Martin helped give the Wizards a fighting chance in a 101-92 loss to the Golden State Warriors. He made a career-high six three-pointers and scored a career-high 23 points against a team that played with for part of the 2009-10 season.
“It definitely feels good to get out there and get a chance to play, man,” Martin said. “When you get minutes and you get an opportunity, you feel so much better about yourself. You play more relaxed. It’s my job to go out there and continue to play and thank God I made some shots.”
But even after his big night, Martin got more attention for something that he had no intention of doing. His former teammate, Stephen Curry, was once again going off on the team that passed on drafting him in 2009 to acquire Randy Foye and Mike Miller instead.
As Curry came down the lane after stealing the ball from Chris Singleton, Martin tried to slow him down by wrapping up and not conceding the layup. Curry’s momentum carried him forward and he twisted the same right ankle that has agitated him throughout his career. Martin hated to see Curry hobble off the court with 6 minutes 3 seconds remaining.
“It was tough, because like I said, he’s a good friend of mine,” Martin said of Curry, who finished with a game-high 35 points and averages 23.1 points in seven career games against Washington, his fourth-highest average against any team. “So I really didn’t try to take him down as hard as it seemed. All off of instinct, just trying to stop the ball and take a hard foul so that they couldn’t get to the basket and get an easy shot.”
Martin might not have had the chance to even be on the court if Trevor Ariza hadn’t come down with the flu, Bradley Beal hadn’t missed his second straight game with a sprained left ankle and Wall hadn’t lost his cool and challenged Warriors guard Klay Thompson to “go to the basket” after taking two hard hits in the third quarter.
Wittman called on Martin to finish the game after Wall left with about 19 minutes left and Martin scored 17 points the rest of the way. Martin had scored a combined total of 17 points in seven previous appearances in the month of March.
“We talked about when an opportunity presents itself, you’ve got to be ready and he was ready,” Wittman said of Martin. “And he was ready.”
This hasn’t been the easiest season for Martin, who led the Wizards in three-point shooting last season but has marginalized by greater depth at the wing positions. Ariza, Beal and Martell Webster have tied up most of the minutes, forcing Martin to settle for scraps. He later missed 20 games with a hyperextended left knee and struggled to regain his form immediately after returning.
Martin was averaging just 5.8 points and shooting 37 percent from the field and 36.5 from beyond the three-point line in his first 30 games this season.
“It’s tough, man. You never know when you’re going to get a chance,” Martin said, “but it’s all about being professional and taking full advantage of your opportunity when you get it.”
The night before he went 8 for 13 from the field and made 6 of 9 three-pointers against Golden State to raise his percentages to 38.6 and 39, respectively, Martin missed all four of shots, including an over the rim corner three-pointer air ball, in the Wizards’ win against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Martin didn’t appear in the first two games of the road trip in Charlotte and Phoenix. Sporadic playing time and sometimes lend to erratic shooting performances, but Martin found a decent rhythm in Oakland, where he scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and helped cut a 16-point deficit in half with less than seven minutes remaining before Curry scored five straight points to hold off the rally.
“I’m not going to say it’s one of the best games I’ve had. I definitely feel confident and feel like I can make the shots that I was shooting,” said Martin, whose previous career high of 22 points came last April. “But it’s just staying within the offense and playing our style of play. I just went out, I was confident. My teammates had confidence in me and I made shots.”