EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. Kenyon Martin cut the "stupid stuff" from his game. What's left looks like title material.
By adding mature to mean and mad, Martin is no longer a dicey wild card when New Jersey needs him to win a game. His dominant fourth quarter in Game 2 single-handedly rescued the Nets from an 11-point deficit against Detroit and has them two victories away from their second consecutive Eastern Conference title.
"I'm pretty much the same player -- I just got better, learned the game a lot more," Martin said. "I grew up a lot, on and off the court."
The Nets, who have won eight straight playoff games, are in promising position for a sweep with Games 3 and 4 at home today and Saturday. Martin was the leading scorer for the Nets in Games 1 and 2, scoring 16 and 25 points in the two-point victories at the Palace.
"I'm seen him grow unbelievably," Nets coach Byron Scott said. "Now he is playing like a superstar. This is the time of the year where you can make a name for yourself, and that's what he is doing."
A year ago, Martin was as likely to produce fouls and fines as much as points and rebounds. He missed seven games from various suspensions due to flagrant fouls.
Now 25 and in his third season, Martin has learned to channel the energy he used to waste on refs and other players. A few long talks with Scott and the example of teammate Jason Kidd have proved invaluable.
"Just focusing mentally, staying away from the stupid stuff, keeping my mouth closed a little more, just playing the game," Martin said. "A lot of it is Jay, just seeing the way he carries himself, his calm demeanor. I'm just taking bits and pieces from him and putting them in my game. But I'm still playing my game."
Martin picked up his fourth foul late in the third quarter Tuesday and was mad about the way he was playing. Scott said in previous years he would have taken Martin out. This time, the coach not only trusted Martin, he needed him, And Martin responded with 16 points in the final 12 minutes.
"You just see it over the course of a season, that he's just understanding what this league is all about," Scott said. "Maturity is something every player has to go through in this league. It takes some guys four or five years to get there. Some guys it takes one of two years.
"He's come a long way, and now he's one of those type of guys that we can definitely go to in the fourth quarter."
Martin has also been a defensive presence in a series with precious little offensive flow. It wasn't until the Nets' fourth-quarter comeback in Game 2 that a team finally broke 30 points in a quarter.