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Captain s hand leds Cats to win
Captain's hand leds Cats to win

Disrespect Damian Martin and he will punish you.

Melbourne found that out the hard way last night when they gave the Perth Wildcats captain too much space at Perth Arena.

Martin is renowned for his high-pressure defence rather than his scoring prowess, but made the most of his freedom to lead all scorers with 20 points in the Wildcats' 87-75 win.

Martin's haul was the second highest of his 174-game career.

But for three missed free-throw attempts in the second half, he would have bettered his career-high 21-point return, set against the Tigers in October 2010.

"It's not often I get to 20 so it would've been nice to have had a new top score, so I guess I'll have to get back on the free-throw line and work on that," Martin said.

"If I turn down a shot, (Jermaine) Beal will rip me, so it's nice my teammates have my back and have confidence in me, and I'm glad I was able to repay that tonight by knocking down some open shots."

Martin's big offensive contribution counteracted a rare quiet night for star import James Ennis, who scored just nine points in his smallest output of the season.

Beal (17 points) and Jesse Wagstaff (12) were strong contributors in the hard-fought victory, which put the Wildcats four wins clear of second-placed Adelaide, who have two games in hand.

Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson said it was important his side had built on last week's win, but was disappointed with giving up 30 points in the second quarter.

"We got a little bit of momentum from Adelaide and we wanted to carry that on," Gleeson said.

"We want the tough games to come in there so we get exposed to that and we can go away and work at it.

"First and foremost is our work ethic. For three quarters we worked pretty hard out there, so that's the pleasing part."

Mustapha Farrakhan (16 points) and Lucas Walker (15) led the way for Melbourne.

The Tigers pushed Perth all the way, but there was to be no repeat of last month's buzzer-beater heroics from Mark Worthington, who fouled out in the final term.

Wildcats centre Matt Knight started on the bench in his return from a seven-game stint on the sidelines with concussion.

He was injected into the match in the second quarter and played 20 minutes.