MINNEAPOLIS, Jan. 7 (Ticker) --
Even in snapping a four-game losing
streak, the Minnesota Timberwolves didn't look good.
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
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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
"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
"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
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
"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."
led the reserves with 21 points as the Sixers
completed a 5-3 road trip.