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Important Likely Playoff Matchup: Sixers at Pacers

Mar 14, 2012, 6:32 PM EDT

The Sixers take on a likely first round playoff foe tonight in Indianapolis.

The hot Sixers face their latest test this evening in Indianapolis when they take on a Pacers team that they could very easily see in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Only one game separates Doug Collins’ squad (25-17) and the Pacers (24-16) between the 4th and 5th seeds in the East.

The Pacers were without Danny Granger when the two teams met at the Wells Fargo Center earlier in the season when the Sixers got the win on January 9th. That was the game, you may recall, in which the Sixers got a “hot tip” that Indiana was focusing on shutting down their second unit. That didn’t work real well.

The Night Shift isn’t exactly what it used to be with Evan Turner taking the step into the starting lineup, but Nik, Lou, Thad and co. are still a boss of a bench for other teams to handle.

Tonight also marks the long-awaited return of Spencer Hawes to the lineup. Honestly, it’s hard to vividly remember this Sixers team with Hawes. They’ve been through so much since then it seems. They were the talk of the NBA, then they fell into an awful lull, and now they’re red hot over their last three contests. Hawes return tonight against a formidable playoff foe should be a very good barometer.

As for the looming trade deadline, Rod Thorn told Sixers beat writer Dennis Deitch today that there is a better than 50% chance that they make a deal before the deadline. Granted, it likely won’t be a blockbuster. Two names Deitch throws out are long swingmen Reggie Williams and Corey Brewer.

The Sixers are looking for their 4th-straight win. Tip off shortly after 7:00 pm on CSN.