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Lawson to the rescue

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published July 15. 2013 4:00AM

Mohegan

It feels like a Willis Reed moment every time she runs to the scorers' table. Perhaps it would have fit better if she ambled as Reed did. Lawson tends to sprint like she's trying to steal second.

Here comes Kara Lawson. Suddenly, roars from the crowd at Mohegan Sun Arena replace moans. Here comes Kara. All is right with the world again.

And so it was Sunday afternoon inside America's Most Beloved Arena and there was Willis Reed Lawson running to the table. Twice. Once in the first half, once in the second. Arena sound engineer Mike O'Farrell should have cued Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.

Lawson was replacing Izzy Castro Marques both times. You know that old song, "Is you is or is you ain't my baby?" This just in: Izzy ain't anymore. She was once a very good player in the WNBA. Now not so much. She has lost her fastball. And her slider, changeup, curve and cutter, too. Hence, Lawson's entrance didn't merely mean the Sun's offense would start humming, but Castro Marques' penchant to throw it to the other team or errantly off the glass, would cease. Mercifully.

Lawson, still recovering from a bone bruise to the inner part of her knee, played the last 15 minutes of this game. And in the last 15 minutes, the Connecticut Sun saved their season. They saved it because their quarterback is back. They saved it from dropping to 3-10 with three road games before the all-star break.

The Sun scored 27 points in the last eight minutes, erasing an 8-point deficit. And let the record show it was Lawson who contested Jia Perkins' shot at the horn, the shot that missed, sending the Sun to an 86-84 victory over San Antonio that they needed more than the most interesting man in the world needs a Dos Equis.

Lawson finished with 14 points and six assists. But it was her presence and demeanor that was more obvious than a roadside billboard.

"It's like us having Becky Hammon," San Antonio coach Dan Hughes said about Lawson. "It gives them a real stretch shooter that really understands the game and it gives them another player that they can play through. So now you've got (Tina) Charles, and you've got, like tonight, (Allison) Hightower, and then you have Lawson. It's a player that will create either spacing on the floor or create play that they can benefit from."

Lawson missed four games with the bone bruise. Ideally, she would not have played 26 minutes, 6 seconds as she did Sunday. But when you are 3-9 and just slightly less desperate than the people on the Andrea Doria, you do what you must.

"If you play, you play," Lawson said. "I feel it. But I can still do positive things."

Indeed. All the things to which Hughes alluded. Maybe the biggest thing, though, is allowing Hightower to return to her more natural wing position. She led the Sun with 23 points, including 12 points in the fourth quarter on 5-for-5 shooting.

Hightower, relieved of having to run the point, looked like Hightower again. Comfortable like in her living room. After a timeout, she even cracked a smile when Sydney Carter flashed the "three goggles" at her. (That's when you use both hands to make the "OK" sign and place them over each eye like pantomimed glasses).

"Kara's a perennial all-star in this league for a reason," Sun coach Anne Donovan said. "She knows how to control a team and how to keep an even keel. And yet she's emotionally charged. She's our emotional leader and she's also steady. There's been a big difference in these games she's been back.

"You could see Allie relax more," Donovan said. "We can get Allie back to what she's good at."

This from Tina Charles: "It's night and day with Kara out there. Her basketball IQ is through the roof."

Which is what the crowd raised Sunday when they finally got to see their team win.

"The position of point guard requires a lot of mental energy. A lot of people don't understand that," Lawson said. "It requires mental energy that can get you tired. I think everybody is better with me out there, to be honest with you. But Allie gets more opportunities to score and spacing is better because they have to respect my outside shot."

She might not get to be Willis Reed anymore. It's likely she starts Friday in Tulsa. This is a good thing. More Lawson means more wins.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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