Thabo Sefolosha otherwise will wear down. He's carrying a defensive load the way Durant is carrying an offensive load.
And Nick Collison has to play more. Brooks has made more adjustments than he's given credit for in this series. He's gone with the small lineup two thirds of the time since losing Westbrook. That's progress.
But Collison has been the victim. He's played barely 36 minutes in the last three games, but the Thunder has outscored Houston 82-66 with Collison on the court as the lone big man. Serge Ibaka has played 65 minutes solo, with the Thunder outscoring Houston 142-141. Kendrick Perkins has played less than seven minutes as the lone big man.
Against some teams, Collison just makes things move more smoothly, offense and defense. Looks like Houston's one of those teams.
And Brooks has to get to the small lineup sooner. The Thunder has started slowly in each of the last four halves: down 13-4 after four minutes of Game 4, outscored 10-0 to start the second half of Game 4, down 16-9 after five minutes in Game 5 and outscored 16-7 to start the second half of Game 5.
Bail on the big lineup. If Brooks feels the need to keep the starting lineup intact, fine. That's a political deal. Might be more trouble than its worth to change. Brooks' coaching genius is not strategy so much as juggling egos and personalities. Lots of guys can draw up cool plays. Few can keep Perk and Westbrook and the gang rowing the same boat.
So start Perkins, if necessary. But bail quickly. And by all means don't start the second half with the big lineup. You can't have Ibaka chasing around Parsons or Harden, 25 feet from the basket. The Thunder has got to start guarding the Rockets.
“We cannot give them confidence to start the game,” Durant said.
Brooks is loathe to make major changes. Not since November 2008, when Westbrook was made the Thunder point guard, has Brooks changed his starting lineup for any reason other than injury or trade.
And it's worked famously. The Thunder is an overwhelming success story, which is why Brooks' coaching pedigree has zoomed. But the next day or three are the biggest challenge of his career.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.