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IC Cold Links: O'Brien Will Play Dunleavy In Close Games, Despite Minute Limit

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Had Mike Dunleavy been allowed to be on the court during the final seven minutes of the Indiana Pacers loss to Sacramento this week, it could have meant a +1 in the win column.

Instead, coach Jim O'Brien's hand was forced by the Pacers medical staff to bench Dunleavy the remainder of the game, thus thrusting Brandon Rush, who was cruising toward a DNP-CD, into the lineup for the final stretch. Dunleavy had reached his 20-minute limit. But don't expect to see that happen again.

O'Brien told the Indianapolis Star's Mike Wells that if the game is close, the minute limit will go bye-bye. "I will never let that happen again," O'Brien told Wells. "I'm just playing him when the game is on the line unless something is bothering him. I don't think you can become totally reliant on a number even though it's a well thought out number by our medical people. You have to win basketball games."

The Dunleavy Deal was immediately put to the test last night when the blue and gold clawed back from a 19-point deficit to make things interesting in the fourth. The shooting guard had reached his 20-minute limit, but he came back into the game with more than two minutes remaining and finished the game with 10 points. His presence in the final minutes, where he dished an assist, grabbed a rebound but also missed a crucial 3-pointer, didn't stop the Pacers from being handed a 96-87 loss.

Really, until the Pacers learn to gel with the recently healed Dunleavy and Troy Murphy, and learn how to play with the same defensive intensity for an entire game that they showed in the second half last night, the Pacers losing slide (eight of the last nine) will continue no matter how many minutes Dunleavy plays in the final minutes. But this is yet another small step in the right direction that might help this team get off the snide.

Indiana has a chance to keep this Western road trip from being a total disaster with a win at the Clippers tonight. Check out more links after the jump.