76ers 81, Timberwolves 74
Aaron McKie had 18 points to lead Philadelphia, which snapped a four-game skid despite playing without Iverson and Glenn Robinson. Snow added 13 points, and Kenny Thomas had 11 points and 12 rebounds to give the Sixers just their second win since the All-Star break.
“It’s been real tough, but you just try to find a way to get through it all,” McKie said. “Just continue to fight and do what you can to help the team win games. I’m not going to sit around and complain about anything. I’m just going to go out and be professional.”
Professionalism was at the core of another misunderstanding between Iverson and interim coach Chris Ford.
Iverson missed his fourth straight game with a bruised right shoulder and informed team doctors earlier in the day that he was experiencing stomach problems and would not attend the game. Iverson failed to contact Ford directly, though, something the coach has stressed from the start of his tenure.
“There are guidelines that we handed down,” said Ford, who took over when Randy Ayers was fired on Feb. 11.
This is not an entirely new issue for Iverson and Ford.
On Feb. 16, Iverson missed practice in Denver after playing in the All-Star game in Los Angeles. Iverson called a member of the organization, but did not notify Ford, who benched the star guard for the first 7:21 of the next night’s game.
“I’m very disappointed. In time there will be something levied,” Ford said.
Kevin Garnett scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for Minnesota, which leads the Midwest Division, but has lost two of three.
“We didn’t deserve to win that ballgame,” said Sam Cassell, who scored 13 points. “We didn’t do anything we should have done from the first quarter to the fourth quarter. That’s not Minnesota Timberwolves basketball.”
Both teams went cold in the second half, but Garnett had six points during a 12-2 run in the last 7:01 of the third quarter to erase a nine-point Philadelphia lead and give Minnesota its first advantage since 29-28.
The Sixers shot 28 percent in the third, while Minnesota made a miserable 24 percent from the field.
The offensive woes continued in the fourth quarter and the lead changed hands five times before Snow and McKie each hit a free throw to put the Sixers ahead 73-71 with 3:01 to play. Cassell made one of two free throws for Minnesota before Korver broke free on a fast break and finished the play with a layup.
On the next Sixers possession, Korver fed Samuel Dalembert, whose dunk extended the lead to five. Cassell hit a jumper, but Snow made a 17-footer from the top of the key and Korver hit two free throws to seal the victory.
“It was a consistent effort,” Snow said. “We know they can score, so we had to challenge their shooters and still be able to help. Coach Ford and the coaching staff put a great plan together.”
Garnett, a 79 percent free throw shooter coming in, hit all 11 attempts from the line. He also had two steals, two blocks and five assists while holding Thomas to 4-for-15 shooting.
But Garnett did not attempt a field goal in the closing 2 1/2 minutes until launching a meaningless 3 at the buzzer.
“We have (an MVP candidate) and when we come down the stretch, we have plays called for him and he doesn’t touch the ball,” Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders said. “You’re just asking to get beat.”
Wally Szczerbiak, who missed Friday’s victory over Golden State with the flu, entered at the start of the second quarter and immediately sank two jumpers for Minnesota. He finished with 10 points in 18 minutes.
Korver and fellow rookie Willie Green each scored 10 points for the Sixers.
Sixers F Derrick Coleman, out since fracturing his finger on Jan. 23, participated in the pregame shootaround. Ford said that Coleman, whose cast was removed last week, and F Mark Jackson (finger, foot) are still a few weeks away from returning to the lineup. … Garnett was elbowed by Dalembert midway through the third quarter. Garnett fell to the floor while holding the left side of his face, but did not leave the game. … The Timberwolves are 0-3 onFeb. 29. … The Sixers’ nine turnovers were a season low.