MIAMI, Dec. 27 (Ticker) -- The Milwaukee Bucks have been one of the surprise teams in the Eastern Conference over the first two months of the 2005-06 season. Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal proved, however, that the Miami Heat are still the cream of the crop in the East.

Wade scored 14 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter and O'Neal added 23 as the Heat posted a 109-98 triumph over the Bucks.

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Miami improved to 6-2 under coach Pat Riley, who replaced Stan Van Gundy on December 12. Riley praised the defensive effort from his squad, which held Milwaukee to 44 points in the pivotal second half.

"At halftime, we just talked about one thing," said Riley, whose squad trailed, 54-52, at the break. "We gave them one number. That number was they get 100 points, they win 10 out of 11 games."

The Bucks fell to 2-10 when failing to score 100 points.

"We had to keep them under (100 points)," Riley said. "We had to buckle down. I thought in the second half, especially in winning time - that period in the fourth quarter when we had to make stops - we made some real tough stops."

Despite jumping out to an early lead after a 31-point first quarter, Milwaukee had no answer for Wade.

"Defensively, I think we let Dwyane Wade get to the basket too much and put us in foul position," Bucks coach Terry Stotts said. "He's a talented player and causes a lot of problems."

Wade had five assists before even attempting a shot in the opening session and then took over the game in the second half. The third-year superstar collected dozens of easy points by attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line.

"I approached the game differently by coming out and focusing on getting my teammates the ball," said Wade, who finished with seven assists. "That's something I want to continue to do. I want to open things up and get my teammates the ball. Then I will start looking for my offense."

Wade had little trouble finding his offense on Tuesday. He went 10-of-14 from the floor and 15-of-19 from the line in leading the Heat to their seventh win in nine games.

"I'm finally getting a handle on the whole mechanism of how to get him and where to get him the ball, and when to let him handle it and when to let him come to it," Riley said of Wade, who eclipsed the 30-point plateau for the 11th time this season. "Most of what he did tonight was just pure talent. A couple of his dunks had nothing to do with anything else other than him."

"That's what a great player does," O'Neal added. "A great player always looks for his teammates, always makes other people better and still gets his numbers. That's why he's one of the top guards in the league today."

Jason Williams collected 18 points and seven assists while Udonis Haslem added 10 for Miami.

Milwaukee cut its deficit to 85-81 on Bobby Simmons' layup with 9:14 remaining, but Wade scored 14 of Miami's final 24 points to clinch the victory.

Reserve Maurice Williams scored 24 points and Michael Redd chipped in 21 for the Bucks, who fell to 7-8 when allowing at least 100 points.

"It doesn't mean anything because we lost," Williams said. "What I did tonight felt like it wasn't enough. You can't go away feeling good."