Miami's defense was better Monday night than it had been earlier, but it still hasn't been as sharp as it was during last season's championship run. But when a team can score as the Heat can, who needs defensive stops? The Heat gave up 53 first-half points and still cruised to a 124-99 victory over the Phoenix Suns. No Heat player was needed for more than 30 minutes in the rout. The Heat improved to 3-1, including 3-0 at home. The Suns (1-3) lost their second straight game, both on the road in the state of Florida. It was the first time the Heat has held an opponent to under 100 points this season. And while 99 points isn't necessarily a number to brag about, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was looking at other stats. "It was good to see us hold them under 40 percent shooting (39.1 percent) and also win the rebounding battle (49-38)," Spoelstra said. "Everything else was the cherry on top." The Heat's LeBron James, who had game highs in points (23) and rebounds (11), was also happy with his team's effort. "For us to win long term, we have to defend," James said. "We got back on track tonight, and we have to keep it going." The Suns' loss was not the way coach Alvin Gentry wanted to celebrate his 58th birthday. "We have to get better in our execution and our defensive rotations," said Gentry, a former Heat coach. "We have nine new players. It's a whole new group, and we're trying to make them a team. We have to continue to work. It's not going to happen overnight. But I don't see any reason to hit the panic button." For the Heat, Dwyane Wade, playing his 600th regular-season game, had 22 points. Chris Bosh had 18 points, all of them in the first half, and point guard Mario Chalmers had nine points, 11 assists and just one turnover. Ray Allen had 15 points and became the 24th NBA player to score more than 23,000 points. He is one of just four active players who have passed that milestone. For the Suns, Shannon Brown came off the bench to lead the team with 18 points, including five 3-pointers. Starter Michael Beasley, a former Heat forward, was held to seven points on 3-of-13 shooting. Suns forward Jared Dudley, who scored eight points, was impressed with the Heat. "That's the most unselfish team I've ever played against since I've been in the NBA," said Dudley, who entered the league in 2007. "They would drive, kick, swing, penetrate, flair. Even when someone would have a good shot, they would make an extra pass. "That's the way basketball is supposed to be played, and they perfected it tonight." Spoelstra said that on a team with the firepower of the Heat, it takes mature players to accept lesser scoring roles. Players must learn to be efficient when they get their opportunities instead of being volume scorers. As for his defense, Spoelstra said the team watched film of Saturday's win over Denver. The Nuggets dominated the Heat's defense inside. "We have to own it," Spoelstra said of his team's defensive issues. "(Against Denver), we weren't in our best stance, and we weren't giving our best effort. We addressed it, and it's still not necessarily behind us." Monday's game was virtually over after three quarters, when the Heat led 98-74 on 57.8 percent shooting. The Heat, who entered the game leading the NBA in field-goal percentage at 51 percent, never trailed. They led by nine points after the first quarter, when Norris Cole closed the period with a half-court bank shot, and they led by 12 at the half. For the game, the Heat made 54.7 percent from the field, including 57.7 percent of their 3-pointers (15 of 26). Many of those long-range shots came open because of an extra pass. "A wide-open 3," Spoelstra said, "is arguably the most efficient shot in the game." NOTES: Spoelstra said he hasn't forgotten about backup center Joel Anthony, who missed the exhibition season and the first two games of the regular season due to injury. On Monday, he played four minutes and did not get a rebound or a point. "We have a lot of depth," Spoelstra said. "(But Anthony) is a unique defensive player in this league. He fits almost perfectly into how we want to defend." ... The Suns conclude their three-game road trip with a game Wednesday at Charlotte against the Bobcats. ... The Heat plays host to the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday before starting a six-game road trip.
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