"I wasn't surprised Isiah went off the way he did," said Magic. "When he gets to skipping and hopping out there, that's the sign—his playground sign. And he was definitely skipping and hopping."
At that moment skipping and hopping were not in Thomas's repertoire. He was stretched out on a bench in the Detroit locker room, immobile, eyes closed, right ankle covered by a giant ice bag. He had hurt his back in the third game, and during Game 6 he also had been poked in the right eye and gouged on the left cheek. Thomas finally stirred when filmmaker Spike Lee approached. Too bad Lee didn't shoot the finals, for Thomas's performance was nothing if not cinematic. Consider:
In Game 1, Thomas and Johnson began their quest, which would continue throughout the series, for an NBA record that will never be equaled, unless by them: most pregame kisses exchanged at center court, NBA Finals. Hey, Rodman, would you ever consider smooching with Magic? "Before that," said Rodman, "we'd have to get engaged."
Thomas showed up for Game 4 in Pontiac with a dreamy smile on his face in spite of his aching back. "I'm feeling a little drowsy from the two pain pills I took," he said an hour before game time. In addition, Thomas hadn't been getting a lot of sleep because of his back—and because his wife, Lynn, was 8½ months pregnant.
The game was anything but soporific, though, and Thomas was in the middle of most of the action. In the fourth quarter he absorbed what he considered a cheap shot from Magic and—lo and behold!—he picked himself up from the floor and gave Johnson a hard shove. DAMON STRIKES PYTHIAS! Spike, where were you?
Minutes later, Magic, somewhat frustrated by the hard fouls that had been inflicted on him, as well as by his team's failure to respond to Detroit's physical play, took still another shot at Thomas. ("Just a lovers' quarrel" is how Riley would describe this turn of events.) Laimbeer moved in on Magic after that one, but order was restored, though not the Lakers' equilibrium. Thrown off stride by the Pistons' no-holds-barred style, Los Angeles lost by an embarrassing 111-86, and the series was tied 2-2.
At 7 p.m. on June 15, the night between Games 4 and 5, Joshua Isiah Thomas was born at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Pontiac. He weighed six pounds, 5½ ounces, measured 19½ inches and, much like this year's Pistons, arrived somewhat sooner than expected, three weeks, to be exact. Isiah was present at the delivery but was not credited with an assist.
Still in a new-father stupor, Thomas dragged his weary body into the locker room two hours before Game 5. He changed into his uniform and his game face, as several congratulatory balloons bobbed around his locker. He deflected all questions about his private life, for he knew that the Lakers, angry about Game 4, definitely would not be talking baby talk.
In fact they had been talking trash, or what amounts to trash coming from the usually subdued and conservative champions. According to Riley, the Lakers' videotape of Game 4 had revealed at least one unprovoked forearm smash—"the kind that Too Tall Jones might deliver," he said—from Piston forward Rick Mahorn to the head of Green. "Of course," continued Riley with a humorless smile, "he was only doing his job." Other members of the Laker entourage alluded to other Piston strokes that apparently had gone undetected and, thus, unwhistled.
Reserve center-forward Mychal Thompson: "Like all Eastern teams, the Pistons are bullies." Magic on Mahorn: "He can dish it out, but he can't take it. He throws out all this cheap stuff, but he doesn't want you to come back at him. Well, if it happens in Game 5, I'm going to have to hit him right back."