MIAMI (AP) - Offensive numbers to savor were everywhere for the Miami Heat on Monday night.
They thanked an upgraded defensive effort for that.
LeBron James had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Dwyane Wade scored 22 points and the Heat beat the Phoenix Suns 124-99 on Monday night. Chris Bosh finished with 18 points, Ray Allen had 15 and Mario Chalmers finished with his second 11-assist, one-turnover game of the young season for Miami (3-1), which is averaging 111.8 points in the early going.
``It's all geared to our defense,' James said. ``When we defend, we can do whatever we want offensively.'
Which is why, when he took his first look at the stat sheet, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra quickly focused on two numbers - Phoenix shooting 39.8 percent, and Miami holding a 49-38 rebounding edge.
After struggling in those areas over the first three games, Spoelstra demanded change, and his team listened.
``I'll take those two things,' Spoelstra said.
The Heat had eight different players make at least one 3-pointer, a franchise record according to STATS LLC.
Shannon Brown led Phoenix with 18 points off the bench. Luis Scola had 15 points, Goran Dragic finished with 13 points and nine assists, and Marcin Gortat scored 12 for the Suns (1-3).
``For us, it didn't go too well,' the Suns' Jared Dudley said. ``For them, it went well.'
Allen became the 24th player in NBA history to eclipse the 23,000-point mark when he made a free throw with 1:01 left in the third quarter.
``It's not that it means a big deal,' Allen said of reaching another milestone. ``It's a sign, a seal, a verification of everything I've done in my career.'
The outcome was hardly a lock midway through the third.
Phoenix - even though the Suns were being handled on the glass and in the paint - was within nine early in the period after a basket by Gortat, and Scola connected on a drive with 6:34 left in the third to get the Suns within 75-65.
That's where Miami decided enough was enough, with a 23-6 run that decided everything.
Wade set up James and Chalmers for 3-pointers that came 24 seconds apart, and the Heat were well on their way. Chalmers, Shane Battier and James - who had 10 points in the spurt - made 3's later in the run, which was capped by Allen making a pair of free throws, the second of those being point No. 23,001 of his career.
Miami had 33 assists on 47 baskets, and even the Suns were impressed by that.
``I thought that was probably the most unselfish team I've ever played against since I've been in the NBA,' Dudley said. ``It was drive, kick, swing, penetrate, flare, and they were hitting everyone. Even when someone had a good shot they would make an extra pass for someone to have an even better shot.'
Chalmers had no more than eight assists in any regular-season game last season, and no more than nine in any playoff game. Entering the season, he had only three double-digit assist games for his career.
He's got five now.
``It starts with the point guard,' James said. ``Rio got everybody involved, got his assist total up tonight and we just tried to make shots for him.'
Miami raced to a quick 10-2 lead, setting the tone. The Heat have reached 119 points in all three of their home games - the first time they've done that since James, Wade and Bosh teamed up to play in Miami over the summer of 2010. They didn't have to play big minutes to get there, however: No Miami starter played more than 30 minutes against the Suns.
Through three quarters, Wade, James and Bosh combined to shoot 26 for 39. The Suns, as a team, were 26 for 68 at that point - and needed a shot by Shannon Brown from near midcourt as the third-period buzzer expired just to match the field-goal total by Miami's ``Big Three.'
The lead reached as many as 30 in the fourth.
``They worry about what's happening with their team, not with what's happening with individual stats,' Suns coach Alvin Gentry said. ``That in itself makes them great because they are virtually impossible to guard. We get in rotation against them they always try to find the open guy and like I said, adding Ray Allen to the mix didn't hurt at all.'
NOTES: James said after the game he will vote for President Barack Obama. James is a registered voter in Ohio, a key battleground state. The reigning NBA MVP did not participate in any rallies during Obama's campaign stops in South Florida, though he believes the president's camp is aware of his support. ``It's a very important time for everyone. Everyone talks about having the right to vote. Don't talk about it. Go out and do it and let your voice be heard,' James said. ... The game was played on the 24th anniversary of Miami's first NBA game, a 111-91 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. ... Allen has 62 points on 33 field-goal attempts with the Heat. ... Suns reserve center and former Miami player Jermaine O'Neal was not with Phoenix because of a family matter. ... Heat G Norris Cole banked one in from midcourt to end the first quarter, giving Miami a 34-25 lead. ... Heat G James Jones appeared in his 500th NBA game. ... Former Heat forward Michael Beasley scored seven points in 30 minutes for Phoenix.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved