The Miami Heat pummeled the Milwaukee Bucks 118-95 to take sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference, picking up their defensive intensity after star forward LeBron James slammed the two-time defending NBA champions' lackluster start to the season.

The four-time league MVP, who scored 33 points to lead the Heat to an 84-62 lead after three quarters before sitting out the final 12 minutes, said prior to the game that Miami had been unmotivated and "terrible" on defense thus far this year and needed to rectify the situation.

Recently re-acquired forward Michael Beasley, whom the Heat chose as the No. 2 pick overall in the 2008 NBA Draft before trading him in 2010 to free up cap space for James and another marquee free agent, Chris Bosh, came off the bench to score 19 points, while starting point guard Mario Chalmers contributed 15.

Bosh and the other member of the Heat's big three, Dwyane Wade, had a quiet nights with 10 points and eight points, respectively.

Miami was playing without injured power forward Udonis Haslem and sharpshooter Ray Allen, who missed the game due to illness.

The Heat's offense had been firing on all cylinders and they kept it up Tuesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, scoring 118 points on 58 percent shooting from the field. The Heat have scored at least 100 points in each of their eight games this season.

But the team also clamped down on defense against the Bucks, holding Milwaukee to just 42 percent shooting.

For the season, however, the Heat are allowing opposing teams to shoot 47.3 percent from the field, fifth-worst in the NBA.

Reserves John Henson and Gary Neal led the Bucks with 18 points each and Giannis Antetokounmpo came off the bench to add 11.

Caron Butler was the only Bucks starter to score in double figures, ending the game with 10 points, while the other four members of the first unit were overmatched by their Heat counterparts and combined for just 25.

The Heat, who allowed more than 100 points in losses earlier this season to the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Boston Celtics, improved to 5-3 and now trail the first-place and still-undefeated Indiana Pacers by three games in the Eastern Conference standings.

The Bucks fell to 2-4. EFE