Miller Ignites Mercury’s Engine

Andrew Nicholson,
Posted: June 26, 2006

It was a good night for Phoenix.

Kelly Miller returned to the Mercury’s starting lineup on Sunday -- her first game since suffering a partial tear in her right hamstring in the season opener – and the Mercury blew out the expansion Chicago Sky, 90-77.

“Kelly is a big motivator on this team,” said guard Diana Taurasi. “When she goes, we go.”

With Miller’s return came the motor of the Mercury’s fast-break style of play.

"This is the first game that Kelly Miller has been back starting,” Head Coach Paul Westhead said. “It made a significant difference in us defensively, and offensively she pushed the ball and scored for us."

Although she was limited in her minutes due to rehabilitation precautions, Miller had an impressive night, scoring 12 points and dishing out a team-high seven assists.

"That's just what I am trying to do,” Miller said. “Just trying to push the ball every time and find whoever is open, and hit them with (the pass) and get them with some quick shots before the other team gets back. That is our team's philosophy."

Miller’s seven assists weren’t easy to come by, although the Mercury were playing the team with the worst record in the WNBA. Despite its struggles, the Sky had only allowed four 20-point scoring performances entering the game, but gave up its fifth to Cappie Pondexter. Miller helped get the Mercury rookie into her rhythm in the 3rd quarter when she scored 12 of her team-high 23 points.

Helping the Mercury more than double the Sky in assists, 22-9, Miller was very happy to be back distributing the ball. The 27-year-old veteran says she is particularly excited about setting up Pondexter and Taurasi, two of the WNBA’s top scorers.

“They are great players to get the ball to and they are great scorers,” Miller began. “So I am confident when I get them the ball they are going to make something happen. I love playing with them.”

Miller likens her game after a familiar point guard in the Valley, the two-time NBA MVP, Suns guard Steve Nash.

“I love watching Steve,” she said. “I think he is a phenomenal player and he just makes players around him better by the way he plays, so try to do the same thing.”

In addition to her ball handling and passing skills, Miller also takes pride in her play on the other end of the floor. Crouched into the defensive stance, her heart is on full display as she drives the opposing point guard into turnovers and offensive fouls.

“You're defense creates your offense, so just getting out there and getting after it is the way I like to play,” Miller said. “I like doing that.”

Coach Paul Westhead likes it, too, and says he really appreciates Miller’s hard work on defense.

“She's just a tenacious player,” he said with a smile. “If something moves, she’s going to knock it over.

“We've been talking about Kelly Miller all season and I think we are about to see her impact. With Kelly starting we are 1-0.”