Twice the Detroit Pistons rallied against big Portland leads, and twice they fell back.
But when Isiah Thomas keyed a third comeback at the Trail Blazers late in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, it was enough for another Detroit success on its Palace homecourt.Thomas supplied the offense Tuesday night, scoring 14 of his 33 points from the 6:49 mark to the 1:49 mark. But the Pistons' defense also did its part, holding Portland to four points in more than four minutes as the Pistons won the opener 105-99 after trailing 90-80 with seven minutes left.
"It's good for us to be down in a hole and come back," Pistons center Bill Laimbeer said. "Our defense stopped them cold for awhile. We know someone on our team will get hot. That's just the way we play."
The Pistons tied the score at 35-35 after trailing 35-25 in the second quarter and at 66-66 after falling behind 64-56 in the third period.
But Detroit never led until an 18-footer by Thomas made it 96-94 with 2:26 left. He tied it 94-94 with a 3-pointer at the 3:40 mark, and another 3-pointer by Thomas made it 99-94 with 1:49 to go.
"When Isiah hit those shots, it kind of took the wind out of us," Portland forward Jerome Kersey said. "We were up by 10 points and we should have poured it on them."
"Isiah hit some huge shots down the stretch," backcourt teammate Joe Dumars said. "Our team has a lot of guys who can step up, not one or two like other teams. That can make it tough for other teams to defend. They don't know where it's going to come from, so they have to guard all of us."
"We have a number of weapons on this team," said Mark Aguirre, who scored 18 points off the bench for the Pistons. "When we see someone get going, we support him fully. Tonight it was Isiah, but it could have easily been someone else."
That balance and defense has enabled Detroit to win 10 consecutive playoff games at home this season. The Pistons have held the opposition under 100 points in each of their 12 postseason victories.
Portland failed to score on 10 of 12 possessions during the 23-4 Detroit run that turned the 90-80 deficit into a 103-94 lead.
"We do it with defense," Dumars said. "Getting blocked shots and steals usually creates something offensively."
"That stretch in the fourth quarter hurt us," said Clyde Drexler, who led Portland with 21 points. "While they were making big 3-pointers, we struggled at the end."
"Detroit, being the fine defensive team that they are, just shut us down late in the game," said Buck Williams, who had 20 points and 12 rebounds. "They played a more aggressive game than we did in the last six minutes. Isiah Thomas is a great basketball player.
"He's Mr. Clutch."