Miller is a dream again for United States

August 11, 1994|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,Sun Staff Writer

TORONTO -- If not for a late-season injury to Isiah Thomas, Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller might be vacationing on some exotic island. Instead, he was the last player added to Dream Team II, and he's making the most of the opportunity.

One night after scoring 31 points, Miller scored 28 -- including 26 in the first half when he hit eight three-pointers -- as the Dream Team breezed to a 134-83 win over Puerto Rico last night before a sellout crowd of 16,144 at Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Dream Team improved to 2-0 in the World Championships round-robin playoff quarterfinal round, which will conclude tomorrow against Russia. The semifinals and championship will be played Saturday and Sunday at SkyDome.

Having taken its knocks during the preliminary round of the competition, when it didn't win as convincingly as many expected, the Dream Team has been all business since starting the quarterfinal round with a 56-point win over Australia on Tuesday.

"This is the big week for us," Miller said. "We're going against quality teams."

Puerto Rico was expected to be a quality team, coming off its gold-medal win in the Goodwill Games. But after losing to Russia on Tuesday, 101-85, Puerto Rico proved to be no contest against the Dream Team, with Miller outscoring the team by himself in the first half, 26-25.

"My job is to hit three-pointers and play defense and nothing else," said Miller, who on Tuesday hit five of six three-point shots. "It was good to just sit back and relax in the second half and watch."

Miller played only four minutes in the second half.

Unlike in Tuesday's game when Australia ran with the Dream Team and had an early seven-point lead, the United States scored the first seven points and never trailed last night.

Puerto Rico coach Carlos Morales, who promised his team wouldn't come out in awe of the Dream Team, tried to spread the court offensively and work the 30-second clock.

But it worked only briefly, with Puerto Rico coming as close as 15-13 after a three-pointer by Jerome Mincy seven minutes into the game.

"I think everything went according to what everyone expected," said Morales. "They're at another level. . . . They're excellent players."

"There wasn't a lot of coaching [required in] this game," said U.S. coach Don Nelson. "Their game plan was to hold the ball, but we shot so well against their zone it didn't matter what their game plan was.

"Playing a slow game is often an effective strategy. It wasn't tonight."

Not with the way Miller played in the first half. With Puerto Rico within two, Miller hit three three-pointers during an 18-1 run -- Dominique Wilkins added a three-pointer -- that gave the Dream Team a 33-14 lead.

The United States led at the half, 62-25.

The Dream Team, which had 13 three-pointers against Australia, had 13 in the first half against Puerto Rico.

In last night's first game at Maple Leaf Gardens, Croatia easily defeated Canada, 92-61, to improve to 5-0 in the tournament.

Boston Celtics forward Dino Radja scored 25 points, Arijan Komazec added 22 and Chicago Bulls star Toni Kukoc added 15 points and 12 assists for Croatia, playing before thousands of flag-waving fans.

"All over the world we have the support of our people," Kukoc said. "But this is the first time [away from Croatia] I've seen so many of our people. I hope they're here with us to the end."

Canada was led by Boston Celtics guard Rick Fox, who scored 19 points.

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