About 90 minutes before the tip, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks met the media. Among the questions was one about his rotation.
Mainly, his shortening of the bench since the playoffs began. Brooks agreed it had been shortened, but that didn’t let anybody off the hook.
“I trust our guys ... If I don’t believe in our guys, it’s not fair to them,” he said. “That doesn’t mean they’re going to play. I’m going to play the best players that are going to help us win the game. But those other guys have to be ready.”
Tuesday, in Oklahoma City’s 105-94 NBA finals Game 1 victory over the Miami Heat, but for 3 minutes allocated to Daequan Cook, Brooks went with eight players.
Still, among that group, interesting was how much some of them played and others did not.
Nick Collison had been playing less than 17 minutes per playoff outing, but played more than 21 against the Heat and responded with a near double-double of eight points and 10 rebounds.
Despite starting, Thabo Sefolosha had been playing about 21 minutes per postseason appearance. He played more than 28 minutes Tuesday, finishing with nine points, two steals and a blocked shot, though his defensive presence was much of the second-half story.
Derek Fisher’s time went from 21.2 per playoff outing to 25 minutes, and the Thunder needed him, especially in the first half when he delivered six points on 3 of 4 shooting.
The guy who’s time came down was James Harden, who scored five points in 22 minutes. Still, it was clear. Brooks put his best team on the floor.
Big second half: It’s becoming like clockwork for the Thunder. Tuesday, they outscored the Heat 58-40 after the half. In Game 6 against San Antonio, they outscored the Spurs 59-36 after the half. They closed the Los Angeles Lakers out with a 52-39 second-half Game 5 outburst. They outscored Dallas in three of the four games of a first-round sweep.
The formula has been nothing so crazy as getting stops on end and baskets on the other, but Oklahoma City has made a pattern of making it happen when it’s needed most.
Defense and security: Through two quarters, Miami led Oklahoma City 54-47 by shooting 51.2 percent from the field, 60 percent from 3-point land and 100 percent from the free-throw line. The Thunder trailed despite shooting 55.6 percent themselves. Committing eight turnovers to Miami’s four didn’t help.
After the half, Miami made just 14 of 35 from the field, or 40 percent. Also, the Thunder quit turning it over, giving it away just two more times.
Big shot: The biggest basket of the night? It might have been Kevin Durant’s 3-pointer that put the Thunder up 87-81 about a third of the way with 6:28 remaining. Russell Westbrook had missed a 17-footer, but Collison tipped the rebound back out to Westbrook, who fed Durant on the right side, who ripped a 3-pointer to give the Thunder its first six-point edge. Chris Bosh converted on the other end, but Oklahoma City responded with the game’s next six points, never to relinquish control.