Sam Cassell scored Minnesota's first 14 points in the fourth
quarter and finished with 26 Friday night as the Timberwolves ended
a four-game losing streak with an 89-84 victory over the 76ers.
Iverson, the NBA's leading scorer, was sidelined by a sprained
right ankle he injured Wednesday at Utah. He was also bothered by
the flu and a bruised left shoulder, but Sixers coach Jim O'Brien
said it was the swollen ankle that kept Iverson out.
The victory was costly for Minnesota. Cassell strained his right
hamstring on a non-contact play late in the fourth quarter and
didn't know if he would play Saturday at Washington.
"Not only do we need to take baby steps to improve," Garnett
said, "but we need to understand what those steps are."
The Sixers were able to close within one point on two occasions,
and trailed 86-84 when Corliss Williamson hit two free throws with
25 seconds left. After Szczerbiak made a free throw, Marc Jackson
threw away a pass for Kyle Korver, and Fred Hoiberg iced it with
two free throws.
"Nothing comes easy," Cassell said. "Philly took its time
getting off our back."
The Sixers concluded an eight-game road trip, finishing 5-3.
Iverson averaged 31 points on the first seven games of the trip.
Philadelphia shot just 35 percent without Iverson, who has been
their leading scorer in 25 of the 30 games he's played.
Reserves Corliss Williamson and Jackson led the Sixers with 21
and 17 points, respectively, as Philadelphia received 50 points
from its bench.
"We played hard, but that's the makeup of our team," Jackson
said. "We're a bunch of warriors. No matter how far you get us
down, kick us in the mouth, we're going to keep fighting back."
Garnett started the game 0-for-7 and finished 6-for-17, guarded
mainly by former teammate Jackson.
Minnesota led 63-47 in the third quarter, but a stretch of
listless play by the Wolves followed and Philadelphia closed the
quarter with an 11-2 run.
Cassell, who made a reputation last season on fourth-quarter
heroics, scored Minnesota's first 14 points of the final quarter on
a series of mid-range jumpers, a 3-pointer, a conventional
three-point play and a left-handed hook in the lane. Garnett scored
the next seven.
"That's the time when you've got to win the game," Cassell
said. "We need to get back to doing the things that made us
Asked about his ability to play Saturday, Cassell said, "If I'm
in D.C., I'm going (to play)."
Cassell took advantage of Iverson's absence on defense to score
10 points in the first quarter. The Wolves took the lead for good
Iverson missed one game earlier this season, Nov. 21
against Miami, a 93-83 Sixers loss. ... The Sixers play their first
home game since Dec. 20 on Monday against Portland. O'Brien said
Iverson is expected to play in that game.