Series tied 2-2. Game 5 in San Antonio. The Spurs' title hopes a little precarious.
So Gregg Popovich got serious. He moved Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup for the first time in what seemed like forever.
Ginobili played great. But so did the Thunder, which prevailed 109-103 and went on to win the 2012 Western Conference Finals.
Lineup shuffling can work. But it's not always a panacea.
Has been in these NBA Finals, of course. Erik Spoelstra summoned Mike Miller to the starting lineup for Game 4. Miller's marksmanship off the bench had sufficiently scared the Spurs to never let him free, the Heat spaced the floor and rolled to easy victory.
Then Popovich countered by starting Ginobili for the first time since that Thunder series a year ago, and Ginobili looked like his old self as the Spurs sprinted to a 3-2 series lead and made Miller's spot in the starting lineup not such a big deal.
We wouldn't know about rearranged lineups here in OKC. Scotty Brooks doesn't change his lineup even under threat of bayonet.
Since Kendrick Perkins arrived from Boston in February 2011, the only deviation from the Durant-Westbrook-Ibaka-Perk-Sefolosha starting five has come courtesy of a doctor's note.
Even when the Thunder clearly needed to adjust its chess pieces — Miami in the 2012 Finals; Houston in the 2013 first round — Foreman Scotty stayed with his starting five.
There is much to admire about consistency. Everyone having a role and sticking with that role is an excellent way to do business. Good for the court. Good for the clubhouse.
If a lineup change could cause chemistry issues, which it might with a young squad, then I see no reason to do it.
The Spurs and Heat are veteran squadrons, and the Thunder is fast getting there. But I have no beef with Brooks sticking with starting Perkins or a big lineup, even in the face of an opponent that doesn't require such a skill set.
As we've seen with Ginobili both Sunday night and last June, a lineup shift can go either way.
Starting is overrated, anyway. It was with James Harden, it's always been with Ginobili, Harden's ancestor as a southpaw sorcerer.
Minutes are underrated. My chief complaint with Brooks' rotations have been sticking too long with a big lineup when the Heat or the Rockets try to turn the game into a track meet.
You saw in Game 4 last week, Popovich stayed with his lineup in response to Miller starting. Then 47 seconds into the game, Pop replaced Tiago Splitter with Gary Neal.
To Brooks' credit, he's coming around.
Against Houston, Kevin McHale ended all pretense of a traditional starting five after Game 1.
Brooks eventually embraced small ball. The early part of the Houston series, Brooks was going deep into the first and third quarters before adjusting. But he went small less than three minutes into Game 4, less than two minutes into the second half of Game 5 and didn't even start Perkins in Game 6's second half.
That's an improvement from the 2012 NBA Finals, when the earliest Brooks went small in a first half was the 5:13 mark of Game 2 and the earliest he went small in a second half was 6:32 of Game 4.
Don't discount the value of a veteran roster in the playoffs. Spoelstra, particularly, has an amazing array of experience from which to draw. Of Spoelstra's 10 primary players, eight have played at least 10 NBA seasons.
So Spoelstra can try some crazy things. Like starting Miller in Game 4 of the NBA Finals after not even playing him for two games in each of the Heat's first three playoff series.
And Ginobili, who sometimes plays with a cane and a crutch, can fall out of bed and make a circus shot.
We should see more lineup and rotation adjustments from Brooks as the Thunder ages.
We'll probably see more from the Heat and the Spurs this very week. Some of it might even keep working.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.