Timberwolves 108, Raptors 97

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TORONTO (AP)—The Minnesota Timberwolves’ big three overpowered the short-handed Toronto Raptors.

Sam Cassell had 30 points and 13 assists to lead Minnesota to a 108-97 victory over the Raptors on Wednesday night, the Timberwolves’ seventh win their last eight games.

Kevin Garnett had 28 points and 11 rebounds, and Latrell Sprewell added 24 points for Minnesota, 19-4 in its last 23 games.

“Sam, Spree and K.G., at some point during the game, they all took over,” Minnesota coach Flip Saunders said. “When your main three get 82 of your 108 it puts a lot of pressure on the other team defensively.”

Donyell Marshall had 22 points and Milt Palacio added a season-high 18 for the Raptors, who have lost three straight with star Vince Carter sidelined by a sprained right quadriceps.

Cassell, who hopes to be selected to the All-Star game for the first time in his career, scored 14 points in the final 6:10. He sparked a 12-2 run with a 3-pointer that put Minnesota ahead for good with 5:27 left, and is shooting 64 percent from the floor in the fourth quarters of his last 27 games.

“In my eyes I’ve been an All-Star for the last four years of my career,” Cassell said. “But the West is the best conference and I’m doing this in the West.”

Minnesota outrebounded the Raptors 43-25, and shot 56 percent, a season high for a Toronto opponent.

“Their big three guys are all playing great basketball,” Toronto coach Kevin O’Neill said. “When you let them shoot 56 percent in your building, you’re not going to win too many games.”

Palacio’s jumper tied it at 84 with six minutes left, but Cassell followed with his 3-pointer.

Cassell’s jumper gave Minnesota a 10-point lead with just over two minutes left, and his 3-point play made it 99-88 with 1:30 remaining. Cassell also made with two free throws, giving Minnesota a 101-91 lead with just under a minute left.

Sprewell, Garnett and Cassell scored 26 of Minnesota’s 28 third- quarter points.

Sprewell had 13 points and Garnett had eight in the period to help Minnesota pull away to a 14-point lead.

“When it comes down to us needing a basket, the three of us put our heads together and say, ‘Let’s do it,”’ Garnett said.

The Raptors went on a 22-8 run to tie it at 80, but Garnett followed with two free throws and Cassell scored the first two of his 14 points in the fourth quarter.

“There’s a reason why Sam should be an All-Star,” Saunders said.

Notes

Raptors forward Michael Curry, sidelined indefinitely by a right elbow injury, will have surgery next week. The Raptors activated Palacio, sidelined since Jan. 4 by a broken bone in his left wrist. Forward Robert Archibald also missed game Wednesday with a sprained left ankle and is listed as day-to-day. … After Toronto’s Lonny Baxter failed to execute a play in the first half, O’Neill berated Baxter by yelling, “We just had a huddle!” … A fan won a car by making a 3-pointer during a timeout. … Garnett leads the NBA with 34double-doubles.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Minnesota
S. Cassell S. Cassell
11-19,  30 Pts
7 Rebs, 13 Assists
 Toronto
J. Rose J. Rose
4-13,  17 Pts
5 Rebs, 3 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

Points
Rebounds
Assists