With the Lakers starting backcourt of Magic Johnson and Byron Scott sidelined because of injuries, it looked like the games 3 and 4 of the 1989 NBA finals would be a formality for the visiting Pistons.
After Pistons lost the in finals against the same opponent only a year ago, this time around, they knew that this was their chance for revenge and to win the Larry O’Brien trophy!
This time around, the Pistons were the ones who held had homecourt advantage. The Motown squad was rejuvenated after trading away veteran Adrian Dantley – new starting small forward Dennis Rodman instantly flourished as the new Bad Boys member Mark Aguirre supplied the firepower off the bench.
Also having his best season as a pro was one of the premium backcourt defenders in the league, 6’3” shooting guard Joe Dumars – in 1988-89 regular season Joe D averaged a new career-highs of 17.2ppg and 5.7apg while shooting a blistering 50.2% from the field and 85.0% from the charity stripe.
Dumars’s best performances of 1988-89 came during the postseason. After taking care of the Celtics and the Bucks, Pistons edged the Bulls 4-3 and thus reached the NBA finals for the first time in franchise history!
After scorching the Lakers with 55 points on 21-32 shooting in the first two games of the finals, two wins in the Palace of Auburn Hills, Dumars came up particularly strong in game 3, scoring 31 points.
“When you’re shooting that well, you feel like you’re detached, away from the game. As soon as you get the ball, you just let it go, so that it just barely passes through your hands.”Joe Dumars, Sports Illustrated
On June 11th, 1989, on the legendary Great Western Forum floor, Dumars was simply sizzling! Joe D scored 21 out of his 31 points during the third quarter alone, which also featured the unbelievable spurt in which he scored 17 consecutive Pistons’ points.
Matched up with Lakers All-Star forward 6’9” James Worthy, while also wrestling for position with 6’9” Lakers power forward A.C. Green, Joe D was somehow able to pull out one of his most memorable performances, neutralizing the Lakers defense with a series of jumpers from all over the court.
After the third quarter, the Lakers still held a two-point lead. But Dumars’ sizzling third-quarter shooting enabled the Pistons to stay in the game, while seemingly trading baskets with the Lakers. Lakers GM Jerry West and his assistant Mitch Kupchak shook their heads in disbelief.
“That’s how you win when you’re the home team by trading baskets until the other team begins to miss. But we couldn’t break their backs, because Dumars wouldn’t miss. We kept waiting for him to miss. You could feel the whole building waiting. But it was as if he had forgotten how. He was scary.”Mitch Kupchak, Sports Illustrated
With game 3 on the line, and only 5 seconds left, Dumars came up with the game-winning defensive play – he first blocked the three-point shot attempt by David Rivers from the right wing, and then, in an instant, saved the ball from going out of bounds, while giving the Pistons the possession of the ball!
“I saw (Dumars) coming. But I didn’t think he was coming fast enough to challenge the shot. It was a great play.”David Rivers, L.A. Times
Led by sizzling Dumars, the Pistons won game 3 of 1989 NBA finals by 114-110. Two days later, Detroit triumphed in game 4 of the series 105-97, thus sweeping the Lakers on their way to their first NBA championship title ever.
After averaging 27.3ppg on 56% shooting from the field Joe Dumars was named 1989 NBA finals MVP.