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Game Thread #55: Philadelphia 76ers at Indiana Pacers

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Philadelphia 76ers
@
Indiana Pacers
27-24 21-33
February 17, 2009 - 7:00PM EST
Conseco Fieldhouse
Radio: 1070AM WFNI TV: Fox Sports Indiana
Probable starters:
Andre Miller PG T.J. Ford
Willie Green SG Jarrett Jack
Andre Iguodala SF Danny Granger
Thaddeus Young PF Mike Dunleavy
Samuel Dalembert C Troy Murphy

UPDATE: Bruno's Inside the Game LIVE is up. So much for a fresh, healthy start. Dunleavy and Foster are both out tonight and likely tomorrow, as well. Hibbert will get the start at center.

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The Indiana Pacers emerge from the All-Star break in better health with the return of Mike Dunleavy, Marquis Daniels and Jeff Foster expected. The Pacers welcome the Philadelphia 76ers to the Fieldhouse tonight to kick off a critical six-game stretch of winnable games, which leaves looking forward to having a few questions answered.

Will this be the Pacers last gasp at a playoff run? With games against Philly, Charlotte, Minnesota, Chicago, New York and Memphis, the Pacers have yet another chance to thrust themselves into the playoff picture. Recent history tells us they'll be lucky to go 3-3, but if they can put together even a 4-2 stretch they will stay in the hunt. 5-1 or 6-0? Back in the thick of it.

Will the small ball lineup work against Philly? The Pacers have played well starting a smaller lineup with Troy Murphy at center. Tonight this lineup assumes Samuel Dalembert won't go crazy in the middle for the Sixers. But do you really want to bait the Sixers into using an athletic small lineup of their own. It was just such a move that helped Philly erase a 25-point deficit against the Pacers early in the season.

With the return of Dunleavy, Daniels and Foster, how much will the rookies play? Brandon Rush started playing pretty well just before the break and I'd hate to see him iced out of the rotation again. Hopefully, JOB can find 10-15 minutes for Rush to stay in the mix. Roy Hibbert also needs to keep playing and may be a good option should Dalembert start causing the Pacers problems tonight.

Could the trade deadline make all of this moot? If the Pacers swap a few players before Thursday's deadline, the next six games won't matter as much and the rest of the year will be in flux. As much as I'd like to see the Pacers shore up the front-court situation somehow, I'm not expecting any big moves. With the unstable financial situation, those expiring contracts may be more valuable this summer to the bottom line. Sure it stinks, but it's reality.

Here are the Pacers.com Matchups.

For the Philly perspective, check out Liberty Ballers, Depressed Fan and Sixers4Guidos.

Gameday Reading

Leave your thoughts and observations on the game in the comments.