Cassell is averaging a career high 20.9 points and 7.3 assists, and has helped power the Timberwolves to the top of the Midwest Division. Minnesota has won nine in a row at home and is 18-4 in its last 22 overall to take a 1 1/2 -game lead over San Antonio.
“He makes big shots,” coach Flip Saunders said of Cassell.
Cassell had 22 points, including seven in the final 2 1/2 minutes, to lead the Timberwolves to a 97-90 victory over New Orleans on Monday.
“I’m supposed to make wide-open shots. I’m supposed to make shots with guys hanging all over me,” Cassell said. “That’s why I have the ball in my hands down the stretch. Give my teammates credit. They have a lot to do with my success this year.”
The Spurs lost 85-77 to Detroit on Monday.
“We’re not looking at the standings,” said Garnett, who had 29 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists in the win. “Our focus is on playing good basketball into the All-Star break.”
The Raptors return home after dropping three of four on their recent road trip, including a 90-79 loss against former coach Lenny Wilkens and the New York Knicks on Monday.
Toronto continues to play stellar defense, as it is allowing just 79.1 points in 2004. However, the offense has been lacking, as the Raptors are scoring only 77.8 points per game since the New Year. Toronto hasn’t scored 100 points in its last 12 contests.
The Raptors hope to have Vince Carter back in uniform against the Midwest Division leaders. Carter missed the last two games with a strained quadricep. He injured it after losing his balance during a dunk attempt in the first quarter of Thursday night’s game against New Orleans.
STANDINGS (through Jan. 19): Timberwolves - 1st place, Midwest Division. Raptors - 5th place, 10 GB, Central Division.
PROBABLE STARTERS: Timberwolves - F Latrell Sprewell, F Garnett, C Ervin Johnson, G Trenton Hassell, G Cassell. Raptors - F Donyell Marshall or Carter, F Morris Peterson, C Bosh, G Rose, G Alvin Williams.
TEAM LEADERS: Timberwolves - Garnett, 24.5 ppg and 13.9 rpg; Cassell, 7.3 apg. Raptors - Carter, 21.3 ppg; Marshall, 8.9 rpg; Rose, 4.8 apg.
SEASON SERIES: Timberwolves, 1-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 1; Timberwolves, 73-56. At Minneapolis, the Timberwolves held the Raptors to a franchise-low point total, and Garnett finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Carter, guarded mostly by Sprewell, shot 5-for-15 from the field.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Timberwolves - 14-7 on the road; Raptors - 12-6 at home.