Dolomiti Energia Trento took another big leap towards the Top 16 on Wednesday by sidestepping Frutti Extra Bursaspor in what could have been a trap game to hold on for an 89-80 victory. With the undefeated group leaders hosting the winless competition newcomers, a mental lapse could have been in the cards. However, as Coach Nicola Brienza pointed out, Trento came to get the job done.
"The last 10 days we have not practiced, we have only had games," Brienza said. So the mental part was very important today - to have the right mentality to play this game."
Leading the charge for Trento on all fronts was forward Kelvin Martin. One of the team's most experienced players, the 31-year-old is always one of Trento's defensive anchors as the man who steps up to guard the oppositions' premier scorers. On this night, Martin became a go-to scorer himself.
Martin took the game by the horns with a jumper for the night's first basket and proceeded to add a three-pointer and a dunk in lifting Trento to an 11-2 start. Those 7 points in the first 5 minutes matched his season-high. Once the team was rolling, Martin backed off as Trento stormed to a 29-9 advantage.
He wasn't needed much until Bursaspor rallied late. Oguz Savas scored to bring Bursaspor within 81-77 with 2 minutes remaining in the game. Then Martin rose to the fore with baskets on three straight possessions to restore a double-digit advantage and ice a Trento victory.
Before the game, Martin had scored a total of 20 points in four games. Against Bursaspor he exploded for 22 points, attempting 17 shots after having shot the ball only 22 times from the field before the game. Martin finished the game with 5 rebounds and 2 steals, too. His 22 points and performance index rating of 16 both were career-highs.
Martin summed up the night in his words: "When we play together and play defense, that’s what’s gonna win. I’m a defensive guy, so I love to play defense. And I know if we play defense as a team, we can win games."
All of that is true. But when he and Trento play strong defense and Martin scores 22? That could be a near-unbeatable combination.