Isiah Thomas has this wild, wacky playoff series between the Detroit Pistons and Chicago Bulls all figured out.
"We have to put back-to-back wins together," Thomas said Monday after scoring 27 points to lead the Pistons to an 86-80 victory that tied the best-of-7 series at two games each."The team that wins back-to-back games will win this series," he said.
Thomas also had 10 rebounds and six assists, but said "I don't have to be the main focus" of the team. Yet, he totaled 14 points in the two losses and 60 in the two victories.
At present, the Pistons can put together successive victories by winning at Detroit on Wednesday night before the series reverts to Chicago on Friday night.
If a seventh game is needed, it will be played Sunday in Detroit.
Regardless when this series ends, the winner will face the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals beginning June 6. If Detroit wins, the finals will start in Detroit. If Chicago wins, the finals will start in Los Angeles.
The Pistons regained the home court advantage they had relinquished when the Bulls came up with a surprising victory in the opening game.
"We got what we came for," Thomas said. "We almost got two and we played good defense the other day, but we let that game get away from us."
The Pistons tied the series with defense, bench strength and holding down Michael Jordan, who has averaged 37 points in the playoffs. Limiting Jordan to 23 points is holding him down. Jordan scored 12 points in the first quarter and 11 the rest of the way.
Jordan, who took only 15 shots, said "the shots weren't falling, so I tried to spread it around to the other guys. But as a team, we couldn't hit when we needed them."
Thomas did. The Pistons never led until the final shot of the first half when Thomas held the ball and hit a 3-pointer as time ran out for a 42-39 Detroit lead.
The Bulls put on a spurt to take a 55-50 lead in the third quarter before James Edwards came in to score six of eight points to give the Pistons a 62-58 edge. Thomas made it 64-60 after three quarters and Detroit stayed comfortably in front the rest of the way.