MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 7 (Ticker) -- Even in snapping a four-game losing streak, the Minnesota Timberwolves didn't look good.

Sam Cassell and Kevin Garnett both had big fourth quarters as the Timberwolves struggled their way to an 89-84 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, who played without injured star Allen Iverson.

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After reaching the Western Conference finals last season, the Timberwolves have been inconsistent this season and entered Friday's contest just two games above the .500 mark.

"It's a long season," Minnesota center Ervin Johnson said. "Every teams goes through tough spots. You gotta keep the right focus and realize that it's not going to stay bad."

Facing a Sixers team that was without the NBA's scoring leader in Iverson and playing the finale of an eight-game road trip, the Timberwolves were presented with a major opportunity to break out of their doldrums. Instead, they nearly squandered a 16-point third-quarter lead.

"That's what happens when you're struggling," Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. "You lose some aggressiveness. We did not execute well at the end of the third quarter and we let them back in the game."

But Cassell and Garnett made sure the Timberwolves were able to avoid their first five-game losing streak since a seven-game slide in March 2002.

"Our defensive energy and execution is more important than shooting well," Garnett said. "We haven't been doing very well on `D' recently, or at least not for an entire 48 minutes."

Cassell scored the Wolves' first 12 points in the fourth quarter before Garnett netted the next seven, helping Minnesota keep the lead.

"Sam and World (Wally Szczerbiak) were in a groove early," Garnett said. "But in the fourth quarter, Sam was feeling it, so we rode him to victory."

Cassell scored 26 points overall before leaving in the waning seconds with a strained right hamstring. Garnett had 18 and 18 rebounds despite struggling with his shooting for much of the night.

Szczerbiak scored 22 of his 23 points in the first three quarters for the Timberwolves, who held a 65-58 lead entering the fourth quarter.

"We're not playing our best basketball right now," Garnett said. "But we gotta keep improving and we gotta stay positive if we're going to get out of this funk. We got a little breathing room tonight and now we gotta take it on the road."

After Szczerbiak made 1-of-2 free throws with 24 seconds left to give the Wolves an 87-84 lead, Willie Green missed a 3-pointer and Marc Jackson threw away a pass after grabbing the rebound.

Playing without Iverson due to a sprained right ankle, the Sixers received a big effort from their bench, which produced 50 points.

"We have a lot of depth on this team," said Jackson,who scored 17 points. "We have people that can put up 20 points every night. Even though we were missing our top scorer, we fought back. Guys stepped up."

"We should have won," Sixers guard John Salmons said. "Our goal is to win every game, no matter who is on the floor."

Corliss Williamson led the reserves with 21 points as the Sixers completed a 5-3 road trip.