Laying Down the Law
By Brad Friedman, WNBA.com
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Sept. 18 -- Turnovers. Three-pointers. Second chance points.
There were plenty of keys to the Monarchs' 66-55 Game 3 Finals win Sunday but none was bigger than the play of Kara Lawson.
When the Sun cut a lead that peaked at 14 points down to as little as two at the 3:16 mark in the second half, it was Lawson's layup the following possession that stopped the surge. Over the contest's final 55 seconds, Lawson re-constructed Sacramento's advantage single-handedly, scoring the game's final six points on perfect free throw shooting and preventing yet another overtime debacle like that which occurred in Game 2.
"Kara is someone who just remains cool under whatever pressure is put on her or the team," said Sacramento guard/forward Erin Buescher following Game 3. "She's one of the most competitive people I've ever known. Even in our shooting drills she does not ever want to lose. I don't ever want to play against her and I'm glad she's on our team.
Throughout Game 3, it was Lawson's confidence, vocal leadership and body language that helped make ARCO Arena the nearly-impossible place it is for visitors to steal a road game in.
"I like to get the crowd involved," said Lawson, who had 16 points, four rebounds and a pair of three-pointers. "That's just how I play. I don't know how to play any other way. I like to feed off the crowd's energy -- hopefully sometimes the crowd feeds off my energy and hopefully my team feeds of my energy, and it makes them play harder."
Lawson's three-year career has been marred by various injuries, limiting her to a perpetual role off the bench. This season was supposed to be her year as a starter following Edna Campbell's departure, but after an opening night nod, an injury sidetracked her once again. When she returned, she took on a sixth-man role that she's thrived in ever since.
"You just do what you do anyway you can," said Lawson. "That's what makes our team special. Nobody cares about who starts, who doesn't, who scores, who doesn't. We just want to win. I think that's why we have gotten as far as we have."
But if she's as competitive as Buescher says she is, it's difficult to believe the former high school national player of the year wouldn't like to hear her named called when the opening lineups are announced. Showing she's capable of handling such a role was her performance in the West Finals against Houston, when she switched spots in the backcourt to fill in for sidelined starting point guard Ticha Penicheirio and responded with 12 points and seven rebounds in Game 1 and 18 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in Game 2.
"All the young players really look up to her," Buescher said. "Every single position she knows what they need to doing. She never doesn’t know where to be or know what's going on. She's always in the right spot at the right time. She always knows what needs to be done in the system."
"It's like having a coach on the court."
According to Coach Lawson, that system will remain intact in Game 4.
"We don't make adjustments -- we just play the same gameplan," she said about the potentially series-clinching contest. "We feel like when we lose, there were things that we do that we should've done better. When we look at the tape, I'm sure there are points in this game where we'll see things offensively and defensively that we should have done better.
"So that's what we look at. To try to change our identity at this point in the season, we don't do that."