A switch in the starting lineup, then a switch of their defense.
The Dallas Mavericks pulled out all the tricks, and that allowed them to pull out an 86-83 victory over the Miami Heat on Tuesday night to even the NBA finals at two games apiece.
Revived by a switch to a zone defense, the Mavericks held the Heat without a field goal for more than 7 minutes in the fourth quarter, rallying from five points down nearly midway through the period.
"Those aren't necessarily tricks. It was a situation we didn't want to give them a steady dose of our coverages and man," Mavs guard Jason Terry said. "Dwyane Wade was having a spectacular game. And to change up the pace a little bit, we went to the zone. And it worked out for us. It was successful."
And on the court during that late run was DeShawn Stevenson, sent to the bench to start the game as Mavs coach Rick Carlisle changed his lineup. Known as a defensive player, Stevenson kept the Mavs close in the first half with 11 points, but was back to his traditional role down the stretch.
Carlisle refused to take credit for his moves, deflecting the praise to his players.
"Everybody has to be ready, and our game has to be a team game. We're not going to outrun or outjump these guys. But we've got to play a sound game, we've got to play a persistent game," Carlisle said.
"It was tough. We had a lot of shots that were there that didn't go tonight, but the guys kept believing. They kept battling. And then the defense in the fourth held us in and we were able to get out of here alive."
Knowing the struggle to keep Wade and LeBron James out of the paint, the Mavs turned to the zone to force them away from the basket.
And after Wade's layup gave Miami a 78-73 lead with 7:25 remaining, the Heat didn't have another basket until Wade's dunk with 9 seconds remaining -- when the Mavs had switched back to a man-to-man defense so they wouldn't allow an open 3-pointer with a three-point lead.
"I think the zone helped us," Stevenson said. "We were rebounding in it, they weren't making shots and we made our little run right there."
The Mavs forced Wade and James to miss all five of their 3-pointers, and the Heat were just 2 of 14 overall from the outside.
Stevenson made three 3s by himself, all in the first half, when his 11 points were more than he had scored in any game this postseason. Desperate for more offensive help for Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavs were finding it from the player who came in averaging just 3.9 points in the playoffs.
But his move to the bench in favor of J.J. Barea wasn't necessarily made because of any poor play on his part. Rather, it allowed Stevenson to come in as a backup small forward, giving Shawn Marion some breaks he hadn't been able to take earlier in the series.
That meant Stevenson took his turns defending James, who was held to just eight points on 3-of-11 shooting.
"He's a pro. He just kept himself ready all year," Carlisle said. "The 3s he knocked down in the first half were huge, because we were fighting through some deficits there, and he was one of the guys that set the tone defensively for us in the fourth."
But in the end, it wasn't any individual defensive matchups that sparked the Mavs. It was the zone, a defense most NBA coaches believe a good team will find a way to beat, but on this night it was good enough to hold Miami to 14 points in the fourth quarter.
"They got great players, and those are the guys you have to deal with," Carlisle said. "We've got a team system, and the schemes we're using aren't very complex. It's just all about hard play."