Even though he was severely limping, Thomas performed admirably vs. the Lakers defensive specialist Michael Cooper, eventually scoring an NBA finals record of 25 points in the third quarter alone, in a masterful 43-point performance.
But it happens that this was not the first game Thomas played with an injured right ankle. Six months earlier, on December 25th, 1987, Thomas twisted the same ankle during the first half of the Christmas day game vs. the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden.
Thomas opened the game in his usual razzle-dazzle fashion, hawking the ball from the Knicks on defense and then leading the Pistons transition charge, dishing out the ball to his cutting teammates Dennis Rodman, John Salley, and Joe Dumars.
But just when he was igniting another Pistons fastbreak, Thomas stepped on Louis Orr’s foot and twisted his ankle. With Detroit up by 3 and 3:16 to go in the 1st quarter, Pistons head coach, Chuck Daly, took a time -out. The Pistons #11 quietly limped off to the bench, before leaving to the locker room.
Being aware that the team’s eight-game winning streak is on the line, and that both forward Adrian Dantley and center Rick Mahorn were out for that game, Thomas wanted back in. With the Knicks ahead 38-44 after the first half, The Baby-Face Assassin signaled his coach that he is ready to go.
The 1984 and 1986 NBA All-Star MVP went to work, eventually converting many tough off-balance shots, scoring 9 points in the first six and a half minutes of the 3rd period, and turning his sluggish 2-10 game-opening performance to yet another one of his ‘masterpieces.’
On one occasion, faced with the 1-3-1 Knicks defensive trap installed by 1st-year coach Rick Pitino, Thomas threw up a tremendous half-court lob to John Salley, for an uncontested alley-oop slam in the lane!
With 52 seconds left in the game, it was Laimbeer who came up with a massive block of Mark Jackson’s 360-degree twisting shot and Thomas who jumped into the third row of the stands and came up with the unbelievable save of the ball from going out of bounce, passing it to Rodman on the half-court!
It was Joe D who finished off the Knicks by hitting the key jumper from the top of the key on another Thomas assist and then stole away the ball on a crucial Knicks possession.
That night, Thomas led the Pistons to 91-87 away win in MSG by scoring 21 points on 9-23 shooting from the field, to go along with 8 assists, 3 boards, and 2 steals.