The Detroit Pistons might be better off tonight if Isiah Thomas doesn't play another game like he had in the NBA Finals opener.
"It's much better if we all play together and all get 16, 17 points,' Thomas said Wednesday. "That way, we're much tougher to stop because down the stretch they don't know who's going to shoot."The Portland Trail Blazers had little difficulty figuring out who was getting the ball in the final seven minutes in the first game Tuesday night. Thomas scored 16 of his 33
points in the fourth quarter, including 14 in a remarkable five-minute stretch that turned a 90-80 deficit into a 99-94 Pistons lead with 1:49 left.
Detroit won the game 105-99.
Thomas said that during the hot streak, it felt like the game was going in slow motion.
"People on the court start moving slower and you can hit the shot, make the pass and grab the rebound," Thomas said. "You can make the right play every time."
Thomas said the late heroics took away from the fact that the Pistons did not play well and didn't lead for the first time until there was barely two minutes left.
"We were lucky to win," Thomas said. "We didn't play well enough to win. We played hard enough, but not well enough. I expect we'll play better in Game 2."
Thomas says that three straight trips to the NBA Finals, a championship last year and a close friendship with Magic Johnson has taught him that winning is the only performance that counts.
"The most difficult thing for a basketball player is to fight the tendency to make the game an individual battle," Thomas said. "Almost every night I'm playing against a guy I know I can take. But I have to fight that urge because I have to make sure the team plays well. It's not whether I play well."
Thomas said the media tends to judge a basketball player by his statistics, and he focused on that early in his career.
"But at one point in my career I had to ask myself if I wanted to win championships or do I want to be a hero," he said. "The worst feelings I've ever had as a player were when I was playing well and still losing."
Joe Dumars, who scored 20 points in the series opener, said Thomas' unselfishness permeates the entire Detroit team.
"We step back and let the guy who's hot do it on offense, while the rest of us do it on defense," Dumars said.
Thomas, the Pistons' leading scorer in the regular season and playoffs, realizes that he has to be a scorer at times, and he believes he has paved the way for other NBA point guards.
"I caught a lot of criticism early in my career for shooting too much," Thomas said. "Now it's acceptable for point guards to attack on offense because of guys who can score like Terry Porter and Kevin Johnson."
Porter, whose own clutch shooting is in large part responsible for Portland reaching the finals, said Wednesday that he's not shell-shocked by Thomas' performance, which included two 3-pointers and an 18-footer on three consecutive possessions.
"I'm not the type of player who tries to score when the guy I'm guarding scores," Porter said. "I would rather see Isiah take 3-pointers rather than guard him close and let him penetrate. That's where he's most effective."
"Success breeds confidence, and every shot he made gave Isiah more confidence," guard Clyde Drexler said.