Ronny Turiaf started at center for the Heat in the first three games of the Eastern Conference Finals, playing crucial minutes for a title contender.
Over the next two weeks, a healthy Turiaf was held out of four games, exiled to the end of the bench, contributing 2:38 of total court time.
Joel Anthony replaced him in Game 4, sliding into a prominent starting role. Immediately after, Anthony was benched and hasn't logged double-digit minutes since.
Such is the life for a Miami Heat role player.
Coach Erik Spoelstra continually preaches a trust in his players. But his constantly tightening rotation suggests that only a few of them fit into that reliable category.
“You know, going into (Game 1) we were going to try to keep a tight rotation, maybe not as tight as it was, and give this our best shot,” Spoelstra said. “I'll probably try to go a little bit deeper in Game 2.”
In Tuesday's opener, Spoelstra burdened his top six players (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier and Mario Chalmers) with significant minutes.
Besides that group, a hobbled Mike Miller limped around for 10 and Anthony provided a brief two-minute spurt.
Compare those 12 invisible minutes to Oklahoma City's steady and stable bench, which got 68 solid minutes from James Harden, Nick Collison and Derek Fisher, and you may have the biggest mismatch of the series.
“We have a deep team,” Thunder reserve Nazr Mohammed said. “There are 240 minutes to spread out between five players and we are comfortable spreading them out. As far as they go, I'm sure we'll see some guys in Game 2 we didn't see last night.”
But that may be the problem. Who does Spoelstra trust to pick up the slack?
James Jones, a 6-foot-8 sharpshooter, is an intriguing option, but Spoelstra said he has been suffering from migraine headaches. Even when healthy, Jones was used sparingly, playing more than 10 minutes just three times this postseason.
High-energy rookie Norris Cole is another option. In the Boston series, Cole was given extended stretches throughout the middle of games.
“We haven't seen Norris yet this series,” Bosh said. “But we know the type of energy that he brings. Joel has played sparingly the last two series, but we know he's got a lot of energy to give.”
And energy may be the key.
Miami's star players insist that fatigue is not a factor at this stage, with everything on the line and the finish line in sight.
But in these playoffs, LeBron James has logged 808 minutes, Dwyane Wade 746 and Mario Chalmers 671. All three of those totals are higher than any Thunder player.
And that constant overtaxing, combined with a condensed regular season and grueling postseason run, may have finally caught up to them.
After Tuesday's hot-shooting start, Miami was sluggish in the second half, with tired legs falling victim to a young, athletic team, and a 54-47 halftime lead turning into a 105-94 defeat.
To remain fresh, a deeper rotation may be employed. But with Spoelstra and the Heat, no one knows what, or who, that entails.
“We're going to have to have more guys in there to give me and D-Wade a rest,” James said. “And Shane, Shane played a lot of minutes. But Spo will figure that out. We'll be more conscious about it, just trying to get a minute or two here or there so we can finish strong.”