Heat Check

Derrick Williams replaces Luke Babbitt in the Heat’s starting lineup

Coach Erik Spoelstra, looking for more speed and athleticism from his lineup, started seldom used forward Derrick Williams on Monday at the Spurs.
Coach Erik Spoelstra, looking for more speed and athleticism from his lineup, started seldom used forward Derrick Williams on Monday at the Spurs. dsantiago@elnuevoherald.com

Erik Spoelstra turned to Derrick Williams on Saturday night to provide energy and effort for a Heat lineup sorely needing it in a lackluster performance against the Utah Jazz.

Monday night, Spoelstra turned to the 6-8, 240-pound forward to start, having Williams replace three-point specialist Luke Babbitt, who started the first eight games, at power forward.

Williams, 25, played only three minutes in the Heat’s first seven games and then finally broke out with 11 points, four rebounds and an assist over 20 minutes in Saturday’s loss to the Jazz. Babbitt played only the first 5 minutes and 15 against Utah and didn’t return.

Asked Monday at shoot around if he was moving away from Babbitt in his rotation, Spoelstra responded: “I don't know if you can draw anything from last game because I was going for anything.”

“Certain games may dictate different things particularly with Goran [Dragic] being out,” Spoelstra continued. “We'll do whatever's necessary. But Derrick gave us good minutes, good heft, athleticism, a burst of energy. We just have to continue to build and do what we're doing right now, which is working at just getting better.”

Spoelstra has been pushing for his team to play with a faster pace. Miami is averaging five fewer offensive possessions per game since the preseason. Williams started five preseason games for the Heat and averaged 9.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 24.6 minutes per game.

Williams joins a lineup that features Josh Richardson and Dion Waiters in the backcourt, Justise Winslow at forward and Hassan Whiteside at center. The unit started the second half of Saturday’s game together and went 0-12 from the field and was outscored 15-0.

The Miami Heat rank 24th in pace and are looking to push the ball more like it did in the preseason. Nov. 14, 2016.

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