MINNEAPOLIS – Reserve Rashad McCants scored 20 points, Al Jefferson had 19 points and 14 rebounds, and the Minnesota Timberwolves snapped a five-game losing streak by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 104-88 on Tuesday night.

The 76ers had their five-game winning streak snapped. Philadelphia held opponents under 85 points during the streak, all at home, but had allowed that many midway through the fourth quarter.

Smith, nicknamed “Rhino,” bulldozed his way to nine first-half points before finishing with 11. McCants had nine in the fourth as the Sixers never got closer than 10 in the game’s final 12 minutes.

Marco Jaric added 15 for Minnesota and Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair and Randy Foye all finished in double figures.

The Wolves lost five in a row before the All-Star break and probably enjoyed the time off. The break halted the Sixers’ momentum and impeded their push for the playoffs.

Philadelphia (23-31) has 27 games remaining to secure a playoff spot in the East. It entered Tuesday tied with New Jersey for the seventh spot, and with the Nets’ trade of Jason Kidd to Dallas now official, the path looks more clear for Philadelphia to reach the postseason for the first time since 2004-05.

The Wolves (11-41) are far from competing for a playoff berth, and will use the rest of the season to determine who fits best around new franchise centerpiece Jefferson. Minnesota showed promise during a 5-2 stretch in January, but went back to its old ways while losing five straight before the break.

With Jefferson on the bench, the Wolves used a balanced scoring attack to start the fourth on a 16-5 run. Jefferson played just two minutes in the final quarter.

Andre Iguodala led the Sixers with 17, but shot just 6-for-16 and was 4-for-9 from the free throw line. Philadelphia was just 17-for-30 from the line.

Notes: A reporter jokingly asked 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks before the game if he’s still eligible to be included in a sign-and-trade deal like Keith Van Horn. “Not in the shape I’m in,” Cheeks said. … Wolves coach Randy Wittman said before the game that injured center Theo Ratliff is “close” to coming back. … Wittman also reported that reserve forward Chris Richard, fresh off a three-week stint with Sioux Falls in the D-League, returned to the Wolves rejuvenated. “In practice yesterday he looked more confident, more active. … Before surrendering 104 points Tuesday, the Sixers held 10 of their previous 11 opponents under 100.

AP-ES-02-19-08 2241EST

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