"These 30 games are important for us," Wolves coach Randy Wittman said. "In my mind, and probably in management's mind, this is important to see how we're going to build this."
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.
"We lost what we had before the All-Star break. Plain and simple," Sixers forward Andre Iguodala said. "We have to try and get it back quick."
Craig Smith, nicknamed "Rhino," bulldozed his way to nine first-half points for the Wolves 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.
"Everybody chipped in," Smith said. "It was stated by coach. We have 31 games left. We have to have a strong 31 games."
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.
"There's still a lot of games left," Sixers forward Reggie Evans said. "Whenever you lose games like this, you have to hope other teams in the playoff race lose their games, too."
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.
Wittman started Foye, who missed the first three months of the season with a knee injury, for the first time all season. The coach wanted to see what the second-year guard could do when paired with Telfair in the backcourt. He said he's not sure how long he'll go with the experiment.
"They'll determine that for me," Wittman said. "When you put new combos together, they'll tell me how it's working by how they play."
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.
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.
"We've been doing a great job at home," Evans said. "But if we don't get it done on the road, we know we're not going to make the playoffs."
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.