Oftentimes many forget the performances of those who come up on the losing end of a game, however its not the case in Game 6 of the 1988 NBA Finals. In a year where Lakers coach Pat Riley promised a title repeat, the Detroit Pistons were out to crash the party. Their leader, Isiah Thomas, put on perhaps the most memorable quarter of basketball in the history of the league's championship series.
With the Pistons trailing 56-48 early in the third quarter, Isiah began to take matters into his own hands scoring the next 14 points in every way possible. Three jumpers, a bank shot, a put back, a layup, and two free throws to be exact. Next, with a little more than four minutes to go in the period, Thomas rolled his right ankle while passing off to teammate Joe Dumars for a basket. Thomas tried to run upcourt, but collapsed while the Lakers scored again.
“The first thing that went through my mind was that I had turned my ankle really bad”, Isiah explained, “And I thought it was something that I could just run through. But the more I put pressure on it, the more it hurt.”
Despite a severe sprain, Thomas returned 35 seconds later and continued the offensive assault. By quarter’s end he had hit 11 of 13 shots from the floor for 25 points, setting an NBA Finals record for points in a quarter. Better yet, he had single-handedly given his team an 81-79 lead.
The Pistons ultimately lost Game 6 to the Lakers, but it was no fault of the battle-weary Thomas. He finished the night with a jammed left pinkie, a poked eye, a scratched face, a ballooned ankle, 43 points, 8 assists, 6 steals, and enough respect to last a lifetime. The very next year, Isiah would finally realize his dream: winning the first of back to back championships, cementing his place as one of the game’s greatest winners.
Isiah Thomas' 3rd Quarter breakdown