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Making Changes: Jae Crowder Gets Start Over Meyers Leonard

Lachlan Cunningham | Credit: Getty Images

In surprising fashion, there will be more adjustments to the Miami Heat’s starting lineup.

Making his second start of the season with the team is forward Jae Crowder, who’ll substitute Meyers Leonard following his recent disappointing performances.

Leonard, who started in Miami’s first 49 games before suffering an ankle injury that lingered past the league’s March 11 hiatus, was at a cold spree in all three exhibitions, averaging 3.0 points and 2.7 rebounds despite receiving the start.

Still, coach Erik Spoelstra’s decision to move Leonard is surprising, considering how statistically better Miami is with him on the court.

A 5-man lineup (20 plus games played) of Jimmy Butler, Meyers Leonard, Bam Adebayo, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn consisted of the league’s highest plus/minus (156). Behind the Heat are the Milwaukee Bucks, with a lineup of Brook Lopez, Wesley Matthews, Eric Bledsoe, Kris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo (79).

In addition, having Adebayo and Leonard helped accelerate Miami’s style of play, as they averaged 1.19 points per possession, tied for first in the NBA this season.

At the same time, Kelly Olynykappeared to be the front runner behind Leonard, after starring in a 101-99 loss to the Utah Jazz, scoring 27 points on 10 of 16 shooting.

Crowder started in just one game for the Heat prior to Saturday’s game, replacing Derrick Jones Jr. vs. the Atlanta Hawks. He finished that game with 14 points, 4 rebounds and two blocks, hitting a pair of three-pointers in 23 minutes of action.

Miami also ruled rookies Kyle Alexander, Gabe Vincent, KZ Okpala and Chris Silva as inactive for Saturday’s game. Coach Spoelstra said all 17 players on the roster will be available, but can only make 13 active for the game.

Michael Yero covers all of South Florida’s major pro teams, along with high school sports for 305 Sports. He also covers sports for Immaculata-La Salle High School’s student newspaper, the Royal Courier.

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