Dates: June 7-June 21
Winner: Lakers, 4-3
The Celtics had begun to fade away and the Lakers were seemingly left without a challenger. But just as one rivalry died out, another one began. In their first Finals appearance, Isiah Thomas and the Detroit Pistons gave us a captivating series filled with grit, drama, and iconic performances. The Pistons took command early, behind 34 points from Adrian Dantley in Game 1. But even the flu couldn't let Magic face the possibility of an 0-2 hole headed to Detroit, as the superstar dug deep for 23 points and 11 assists.
The Pistons would take 2 of 3 games at home and narrowly missed their chance to close out the Lakers in Game 6, despite an all-time Finals performance from Isiah. Thomas was already on a one-man run with 14 consecutive points in the third quarter to shave a Laker lead, but then he sprained his right ankle on an ensuing possession.
In an inspiring display of will, Zeke refused to sit and piled on 11 more points in the quarter to set an Finals record with 25 on 11-13 shooting. The game went back and forth over the final minutes until a questionable foul call on Bill Laimbeer sent Kareem to the line for the game winning free throws. Isiah would finish the game with 43 points. He'd play sparsely in Game 7 and the Lakers took full advantage, building a substantial lead late in the 4th quarter. The Pistons would not go down without a fight though, cutting the lead to just one point with seconds remaining. But it wasn't enough to overcome a majestic showing from James Worthy, who recorded the first triple double in a Finals Game 7 with 36, 16, and 10.