Isiah Thomas

Thomas takes on James Worthy during his 25-point third-quarter outburst.
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBA Photos)


The 1988 NBA Finals will rightly be remembered as the year the defending champion Lakers fulfilled coach Pat Riley's promise of a repeat.

But more than a few will recall Isiah Thomas' gutty performance in Game 6 at the Forum.

Although the Lakers came away with a narrow 103-102 win (the Lakers then won Game 7 to capture their second straight title), the most memorable moments from Game 6 belonged to Thomas.

The Pistons were down 56-48 early in the third quarter of Game 6 when Thomas scored the next 14 points in a variety of ways: two free throws, a 5-footer off an offensive rebound, three jumpers, a bank shot, and a layup.

Then, with a little more than four minutes to go in the period, Thomas landed on Michael Cooper's foot and had to be helped from the floor.

Despite a severely sprained ankle, Thomas returned 35 seconds later and continued the offensive assault. By the end of the quarter, he had hit 11 of 13 shots from the floor for 25 points, setting an NBA Finals record for points in a quarter. Better yet, he had single-handedly given his team an 81-79 lead.

The Pistons ultimately lost Game 6 to the Lakers, but it was no fault of the battle-weary Thomas. He finished the night with a jammed left pinkie, a poked eye, a scratched face, a ballooned ankle, 43 points, 8 assists, 6 steals, and enough respect to last a lifetime.

"We got a miraculous game from Isiah, as hurt as he was," Pistons coach Chuck Daly said afterward. "He got us back in the game. On offense, we didn't give him as much support as I would like. We were 45 seconds away from an NBA Championship. What can I say?"

"What Isiah Thomas did in the second half was just incredible," agreed Lakers coach Pat Riley.

Lakers guard Magic Johnson, Thomas' longtime friend, added: "I think he was just unconscious. I think he said, 'Okay, I'm going to take this game over.' I've seen him do that before. He was in his rhythm. When he starts skipping and hopping, that means he's in his rhythm. That means he's ready."