S_knight8 2012-07-14 16:08:16
The question began, “What happens if you didn’t get hurt in Game 6,” but
“They lose,” Thomas said. “They lose. It [isn’t] close.”
Sixteen years ago, the Pistons-Lakers’ rivalry began when the “Bad Boys” met
“Showtime,” and friends Thomas and Magic Johnson battled for the first time
in the Finals. That friendship was tested in Game 3 when Johnson hit Thomas
in midair as he went for a layup.
The teams met again the next year as the Pistons swept Los Angeles for their
first of back-to-back NBA titles. In the visiting locker room at the old
Forum after the Pistons ended the Lakers’ two-year championship run and
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s spectacular career, Thomas repeatedly kissed the
championship trophy while champagne poured freely.
But the Lakers weren’t healthy in 1989. Johnson played only 75 minutes
because of injury and Byron Scott was out the entire series. What if Scott
and Johnson had not been hurt? “I think that would have been a very
interesting series to see,” said Abdul-Jabbar, now a Knicks’ scout. “I’m not
going to say we would have won, but I don’t think Detroit could say that
they would have won either.”
Thomas, who averaged 21.3 points and 7.3 assists that series, thinks
“We totally dominated,” said Thomas, now Abdul-Jabbar’s boss.
“It was impossible,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “You play well the whole season with
your starting backcourt. And then you have to play for the world
championship without your starting backcourt. You can’t get much done. You
can’t lose everything Magic brings offensively and defensively and still
expect to be competitive.”
Most expect these Lakers to run away with this series because of Shaquille
O’Neal’s dominance, Kobe Bryant’s greatness, and Detroit’s inability to
score. Yet, Thomas and Abdul-Jabbar said the series could be closer than
“Everybody seems to want to put the Lakers out front because they’re
starting to operate on all cylinders, but having a good defensive team means
a lot,” he said.
Thomas said, “I think you’ve got two great coaches. I think you’ve got two
different styles and some players that can take their games to another
level. I think it will be a great series.”
But letting go of Game 6 is difficult. Despite Thomas’ heroics, Detroit lost
by one point. A very questionable call late on Bill Laimbeer led to two
Abdul-Jabbar free throws that forced Game 7, in which Detroit lost by three.
What if Thomas never got hurt? “They lose,” he said. “As a matter of a fact,
it doesn’t even get to the phantom foul on Laimbeer. They wouldn’t have won.
There wouldn’t have been a seventh game.”
“That,” Thomas added, “would have given us three [titles] in a row.”
Greg brown 2012-07-22 13:59:39
What a little weasel Isaiah STILL is. Laimbeer is barely worth a mention.
What happens if the Lakers don’t lose their starting backcourt in ’89? The
Pistons lose, the Lakers go on to three peat, and Detroit would still be
chasing their first title since whenever.
Something else The little Weasel never mentions is that the only reason the
’87-’88 series was so close was because the Lakers were working on the first
repeat championship in 20 plus years, and that they had already allowed
themselves to be taken to 7 games by both Dallas and Utah, two decidedly
inferior teams to the Lakers that year. Playing a close series against the
Pistons that year said more about the Lakers fatigue than Detroit’s
Top-post 2012-07-22 13:59:42
That’s a matter of opinion. Maybe the fact that they were taken to 7 by the
“decidedly inferior” Utah and Dallas teams says that they weren’t nearly as
superior as you would like to believe. I think the reason that Detroit lost
is that Rodman decided to take two boneheaded shots in the deciding moments
of the game. And that makes me just about as correct as you are.
Gm collins 2012-07-22 13:59:46
Isiah’s ankle injury had a little bit to do with it, too. Of course people
can argue what-ifs all day long and get nowhere. The right team probably won
in 87-88 and the right team won in 88-89.
Nate burnett 2012-07-22 13:59:48
History shows the Pistons were peaking around that time…don’t forget they
were a bad steal from beating Boston in 87. They were a quality championship
team the two years they repeated. Isiah still sounds really sore about 88,
which is typical for him. He couldn’t have played any better in that third
quarter despite his injury, and it still wasn’t enough. But go ahead, Isiah,
blame the refs since you obviously couldn’t overcome them
Top-post 2012-07-22 13:59:55
The Pistons peaked after they jettisoned Adrian “clear out the lane so I can
throw up some garbage and get fouled” Dantley. That guy was the wrong piece
for the puzzle.
Top-post 2012-07-22 13:59:57
History is just that. Luck, chance and misfortune always play a part in the
Gm collins 2012-07-22 14:00:10
ESPN Classic has been showing Lakers vs. Pistons all day. You know, Dantley
could score almost anytime he wanted, but it was amazing how once he got the
ball you just knew he was never going to pass.
Chris smith! 2012-07-22 14:00:17
I bet Isiah would also claim that the Pistons would’ve won the title in 87
if only Bird (the guy who would be an average black player) didn’t steal his
Nate burnett 2012-07-22 14:00:19
So true (no wonder Utah traded him, right?)…I think a few players from
those Piston teams have gone on record as saying replacing him was the last
crucial piece to their puzzle. Still, you’ve got to give him credit for
keeping Detroit around in Game 7. Once there was a day when that guy could
light it up
Nate burnett 2012-07-22 14:00:21
Of course, Rodman was the one who made that comment about Bird and actually
regreted making it later.
Top-post 2012-07-22 14:00:23
I hated his game, and I’m a Detroit fan. When he had the ball, it took
everyone else out of the game. They were a much better TEAM without him.
Zcarenow 2012-07-25 19:59:28
Isiah has a point. He was a huge factor in the series. I wouldn’t say
that even if the 89′ Lakers were healthy, that they would’ve won. The
Pistons pretty much knew how to play the Lakers from the previous
year. Of course, everything is IF IF IF. Unfortunately, injuries are
part of the game and you hate to see this happen in the Finals.
Mombu 2012-07-25 19:59:56
It’s the Lakers’ own fault they played in 2 game 7s.
Mombu 2012-07-25 19:59:59
Actually, Isiah has never said anything about what happened at the end of game
7. After Worthy broke away for the layup, Isiah was bringing the ball up the
court, and was around halfcourt getting ready to launch a really long 3 to tie
the game (which he had made several times in the playoffs that year and in
previous years), when Magic started celebrating prematurely, and ran into
Thomas and knocked him over with one second left on the clock. No foul was
Coop21 2012-07-25 20:00:21
1. It was a foul on Laimbeer. In fact, the refs called a similar
foul earlier in the game, so they were consistent with their whistles.
Laimbeer bumped Jabbar enough to throw off the hook…it came close
to going in.
2. Even if the foul wasn’t called, how can anybody just assume the
Pistons would have unquestionably won the game? Who knows – anything
could have happened. There was still quite a bit of time left in the
game!! The Lakers could have gotten the offensive rebound and made a
go-ahead bucket. If the Pistons got the rebound, who knows if they
make both of their ensuing FTs. Even if they did, it would have been
a 3-pt lead still. The Lakers could have cut the lead to 1 again &
perhaps stolen the ensuing inbounds pass. Anything can happen in the
NBA, as we saw this year in San Antonio, not to mention the 1987 ECF
Gm 5 in Boston…
3. If the Lakers were at healthy in 1989, there’s no guarantee they
would have won. However, I do feel the Lakers would have won in 6
Jslater 2012-07-25 20:01:35
Since we’re talking history, I’ll say that I liked Dantley’s
game–plus, several of the younger Pistons credited him with teaching
them not just basketball but how to behave off court. But they didn’t
win it all with him ….–Joe