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Sixer Aaron McKie and Pacer Austin Croshere both look to assert themselves
Will the Answer Set the Pace?
By Chris Ford analyst Chris Ford previews the first-round series between the Sixers and the Pacers.

Game after game, Iverson has provided the Answer for Philly.
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Three Things For Philadelphia:
  • A banged-up Allen Iverson must stay healthy
  • Need another scorer to complement Iverson
  • Strong perimeter defense must continue against Reggie Miller, Travis Best and Austin Croshere

    Three Things For Indiana:
  • Miller needs to lead younger teammates with his confidence and swagger
  • Need a healthy Best defending Iverson
  • Jermaine O'Neal and Jonathan Bender need to hold their own against Dikembe Mutombo

    Marquee Matchup: Aaron McKie vs. Reggie Miller
    It will be a good matchup. Miller can score against anyone in the league. He has done it against every team in the league, every matchup in the league. The only way Philly is going to win is by shutting him down. That's why I am saying if Miller is able to come out and get that cockiness and that take charge attitude right from the beginning rather than waiting for the game to come to him which he sometimes does.

    Philadelphia's Offensive Approach:
    The Sixers offense begins with Iverson, and he is such a huge part of the offense and will get the majority of shots for Philadelphia. Indiana must find ways of stopping him. I'm sure teams will run players at him, double-team him as much as possible and make someone else have to step up. That means Aaron McKie has to be a big offensive threat for them through out the playoffs. The Sixers have relied on defense-defense throughout the year but right now they're going to have to find ways to score points. Mutumbo is going to get his points off the offensive glass. They're going to have to score, hopefully, in transition.

    Indiana's Offensive Approach:
    Their strengths are their perimeter shooting. Miller, Rose, Best, and Croshere and their capability of firing away at the three-point line. Rose is a great offensive player who can not only take the three and beat you off the dribble but can also be their inside post up threat. I think Reggie Miller has to step forward right from the first quarter in the first game.

    They have a mix of young and old players and the young players are going to have to step up as well. O'Neal is going to have to play big in the center spot. Al Harrington and Bender, if they get their minutes, are going to have to step up. They're very young. Jermaine O'Neal should be able to do a pretty good job on Mutumbo. I'm sure they'll try and get O'Neal out on the floor and running, beat Mutumbo down the floor

    Their inside game is not much. Their best post-up player is Jalen Rose so they're going to have to try and post him at times.

    Poised For A Big Series:
    McKie is key here for Philadelphia. I think teams are going to sit down right now and gear up and find ways to try and stop Iverson and not let him get the shots. That's where McKie can come in and excel.

    For Indiana, Croshere is going to have to step up much like he did in last year's playoff run. He played his best basketball last season in the playoffs and used his size and athleticism in so many different ways -- shooting from the perimeter, running the break, playing solid defense -- which helped to get him that nice contract that he has now.

    Intriguing Subplots:
    Everybody in Philly, the media and the fans, are all waiting to see what is going to happen with this Sixers team. They made the trade to get Mutumbo because they thought that this was their best shot at winning a championship. I think anything short of that and the trade for Mutumbo will be deemed a bad trade in Philadelphia, although everybody in the NBA thinks it was a good trade. You have to produce and they've got to win a title. That's a lot of pressure on this team, and only time will tell how they respond.

    Philly is 3-0 against them during the season, but this still should be a good test for the Sixers. The Sixers are only 14-11 since they've gotten Mutumbo and only 3-11 against teams above 500 in that span. But defense wins in the playoffs, and everything is geared upon their defense and the way they grind it out, shut teams down and gives the ball to Iverson. The Pacers are going to really go out and try to shut Iverson down. But I like Philly. Only because I don't think the young guys for the Pacers have it yet. They're not seasoned enough. It could be a sweep.

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