MIAMI -- LeBron James didn't think anybody would be talking about defense after the offensive show his Miami Heat put on Monday night.
The Heat scored their most points since the fifth game of last season in a 124-99 rout of Phoenix at AmericanAirlines Arena. They had a team-record eight different players make a 3-pointer while shooting 57.1 percent from beyond the arc.
But James, who scored a game-high 23 points, said it wouldn't have been possible had the Heat not played such sound defense.
"We preach defense here," James said. "A lot of people are not going to talk about it because of how well we're shooting the ball right now, how well we're scoring the ball. But when we defend at a high level, that's what we want to do in this building, when we defensive rebound, when we turn teams over, it makes the offense that much easier."
Those on the highlight shows might not talk too much about defense when shown are dunks and tape-measure jumpers, including a 40-foot bank shot by Norris Cole at the first-quarter buzzer. But show James some love. Talk about the Heat defense while at the water cooler Tuesday before election results are posted.
Talk about the Heat holding the Suns to 39.8 percent shooting. Make note of them winning the rebounding battle 49-38.
OK, so Phoenix having 99 points might not look all that great. But it was such a fast-paced game with so many possessions that the Suns' point total is misleading. And they did pad their numbers during garbage time.
Miami's defense was important Monday because it took last Saturday off. The Heat watched Denver shoot 51.8 percent, outrebound the Heat 47-32 and have eight blocks to their three.
Miami was very fortunate to win that game 119-116. That's why the Heat weren't staring at a 1-2 start and sharing some headlines with the Lakers about what the heck is wrong with one of the NBA's superpowers.
"It was just about trying to make a better effort as we continue to get better as this team," Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who scored 22 Monday, said about making up for the crummy defensive showing against the Nuggets. "We're not last year's team right now. We're tying to find our own identity and right now we have work to do. And defensively obviously is what we're going to focus on because that's what wins championships. So we did a better job (Monday) of having a better effort."
As great James was offensively last season, the Heat wouldn't have won the title had they not stepped up on defense regularly when it counted. They'll have to do that again this season if the want to repeat.
Yes, the Suns are terrible. But the Heat (3-1) wouldn't have shot 54.7 percent had their defense regularly not gotten them out on the break. The Heat were 15-of-26 from 3-point range, which is better than some teams do in an empty gym.
"That really was our focus coming out," said Heat guard Ray Allen. "So, as much as you may say that (offensively) that's the type of night it was for us, defensively was where we kind of hung our hat From that aspect, it got our offense going."
Allen helped the Heat barrage of 3-point shooters by going 3-of-4 and scoring 15 points to become the 24th player to reach 23,000 for a career. But he seemed most content after the game talking about defense.
So did point guard Mario Chalmers even though he shot 3-of-3 from 3-point range and had 11 assists. But he also had three steals and a blocked shot. Hey, a blocked shot is a big thing for a guy who entered the night with a career average of .13 in that category.
"We wanted to come out and get back to Miami Heat defense," Chalmers said of the team making up for the Denver game. "So I think we did a pretty good job of it."
They did a good enough job that the first words out of Miami coach Erik Spoelstra's mouth in his post-game press conference had not to do with any offensive numbers, but with defensive ones.
"It was good to see two numbers," Spoelstra said. "The sub-40 percent allowed and winning the rebound battle. I'll take those two things. Everything else was just the cherry on top."
The highlight shows after the game will show the cherry. It's a lot more sexy.
But make James happy. Talk about Miami's defense. He doesn't think you will.