Season Review: 1988-89

The Pistons finally break through as the NBA expands again Staff

Aug 24, 2017 12:42 AM ET

The Pistons avenge heart-breaking playoff losses to the Lakers and the Celtics with their first title.


Although two new teams began play in Charlotte and Miami, some things remained the same.

Michael Jordan won his third straight scoring crown. Magic Johnson won his second Most Valuable Player Award. And the Detroit Pistons played the best team defense in the NBA. But the team's hierarchy sensed that the elusive team chemistry wasn't quite what it should be, so three days after the All-Star Game, the Pistons traded Adrian Dantley and a No. 1 draft pick for forward Mark Aguirre of the Dallas Mavericks. The trade seemed like a gamble, but the Pistons responded to the trade and finished the regular season with a league-best 63-19 record.

The Lakers, meanwhile, were determined to send their captain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, into retirement with three straight titles. Abdul-Jabbar had announced that this season, his 20th, would be his last. The 42-year-old center was a six-time MVP, had become the NBA's all-time scoring leader and played on six title teams.

When the Lakers swept through the first three rounds of the playoffs, it seemed the fairy tale ending was in place. But Byron Scott pulled his hamstring prior to Game 1 of The Finals, and Johnson also suffered a hamstring injury during Game 2. The Pistons, who lost in Game 7 of the 1987 Finals, outplayed what was left of the Lakers and swept L.A. to claim Detroit's first NBA crown.

The title run wouldn't have been possible without, Joe Dumars, one of the best-kept secrets in the NBA prior to the 1988-89 season. The long shadow cast by All-Stars Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer was large enough to obscure Dumars' solid contributions. When Aguirre was acquired, it merely put another All-Star between the spotlight and Dumars.

But his fine play on both ends of the court in the NBA Finals once and for all ended his anonymity as he was named Finals MVP. Next to the flashy Thomas and bombastic Laimbeer, Dumars knew he was viewed as a straight arrow.

"I can understand that people want to see the fancy stuff," Dumars said. "But believe me, we've got enough fancy stuff on the Detroit Pistons where I don't have to be fancy."

Relive Joe Dumars' Top 10 plays from The 1989 Finals.


Eastern Conference first round
New York defeated Philadelphia (3-0)
Detroit defeated Boston (3-0)
Chicago defeated Cleveland (3-2)
Milwaukee defeated Atlanta (3-2)

Western Conference first round
L.A. Lakers defeated Portland (3-0)
Golden State defeated Utah (3-0)
Phoenix defeated Denver (3-0)
Seattle defeated Houston (3-1)

Eastern Conference semifinals
Chicago defeated New York (4-2)
Detroit defeated Milwaukee (4-0)

Western Conference semifinals
Phoenix defeated Golden State (4-1)
L.A. Lakers defeated Seattle (4-0)

Eastern Conference finals
Detroit defeated Chicago (4-2)

Western Conference finals
L.A. Lakers defeated Phoenix (4-0)

NBA Finals
Detroit defeated L.A. Lakers (4-0)


PPG -- Michael Jordan, Chicago Bulls (32.5)
FG % -- Dennis Rodman, Detroit Pistons (.595)
FT % -- Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers (.911)
3PT % -- Jon Sundvold, Miami Heat (.522)
Assists -- John Stockton, Utah Jazz (13.6)
Rebounds -- Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston Rockets (13.5)
Steals -- John Stockton, Utah Jazz (3.2)
Blocked Shots -- Manute Bol, Golden State Warriors (4.3)


Most Valuable Player -- Magic Johnson, L.A. Lakers
Rookie of the Year -- Mitch Richmond, Golden State Warriors
Defensive Player of the Year -- Mark Eaton, Utah Jazz
Most Improved Player -- Kevin Johnson, Phoenix Suns
Sixth Man of the Year -- Eddie Johnson, Phoenix Suns
Coach of the Year -- Cotton Fitzsimmons, Phoenix Suns
All-Star Game MVP -- Karl Malone, Utah Jazz
Finals MVP -- Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons

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