Isiah Thomas has been a star in the National Basketball Assn. since he turned professional in 1981. In his early days, however, the former Indiana star had a tendency to throw up some wild shots in crucial situations.
The 6-foot 1-inch backcourt star has long since overcome that problem. Now, when the game is on the line the Detroit Pistons turn to Thomas. Invariably, he comes through.
The Pistons were in a bitter battle with the 76ers for three quarters Saturday night at Philadelphia, so they got the ball to Thomas in the final quarter.
Thomas scored 24 of his 34 points in the last 12 minutes to carry the Pistons to a 111-106 victory, their sixth in a row overall and their eighth straight at the Spectrum.
The victory put Detroit one game behind faltering Cleveland in the Central Division race. It also gave them the best road record (17-12) in the league.
Last week Thomas admitted that he was fighting a shooting problem. In the last four games he has regained his touch. He was 11 for 22 in this one. In the four games, he is 41 for 73 from the field. He has averaged 25.8 points per game.
“All I did was find a new spot on the floor,” Thomas said. “I was only 2 for 6 in the first half, but I felt I could make my shots. When Vinnie (Johnson) came in to play the point, I became the shooting guard. They just kept falling in.”
Maurice Cheeks, who had the task of trying to guard Thomas, said: “He made it all happen when he had to. He either got to the foul line or made the jumper. That’s Isiah.”
Charles Barkley had 21 points and 18 rebounds to keep the 76ers in the game, but Thomas scored just four fewer points than the 76ers in the last period. He finished Philadelphia’s hopes with a three-point basket with 46 seconds left.
Although he hasn’t been much of a factor in the games, Mark Aguirre has been a good-luck charm for the Pistons. Since he moved into the starting lineup, Detroit is 7-1.
While averaging more than 30 minutes per game, Aguirre has contributed 18 points a game.
Chicago 105, Seattle 88--After his streak of playing in 234 consecutive games ended Wednesday because of a groin injury, Michael Jordan was expected to miss several games.
The star of the Bulls missed only one. He came back to make life miserable for the road-weary SuperSonics at Chicago.
The 6-6 guard played the role of playmaker as the Bulls handed the Sonics their third loss in a row and dropped them six games behind the Lakers.
Jordan, playing 40 minutes, had 18 points and 15 assists. Eight of his points were in the last quarter to help break it open.
“They said I would be out for awhile, but I knew better,” Jordan said. “I felt fine, though, it was really painful when I hurt it Tuesday night.”
He also found time to refute a story in a Chicago newspaper that said Jordan and Coach Doug Collins were at odds over Jordan’s playing time.
The Sonics were without Coach Bernie Bickerstaff, who has a peptic ulcer.
San Antonio 97, Dallas 90--Apparently after learning for certain that center James Donaldson would miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, the Mavericks weren’t in the right mood for basketball.
Willie Anderson scored 20 points and Frank Brickowski 18 as the Spurs beat the Mavericks at San Antonio. The win ended an eight-game losing streak to Dallas.
Adrian Dantley had 23 points for the Mavericks and passed the 22,000-point mark.
Milwaukee 100, Phoenix 93--Terry Cummings scored 33 points, and the Bucks remained perfect (12-0) against Western Conference opponents this season at home.
The Suns, who have won only once in the last 10 games at Milwaukee, lost their third in a row on the trip and now trail the Lakers by five games.
Kevin Johnson led the Suns with 28 points.
Houston 124, New Jersey 94--Otis Thorpe scored 23 points and Akeem Olajuwon 19, although he played only 28 minutes in the one-sided game at Houston.
The Rockets, who trail Utah in the Midwest Division by 3 1/2 games, jumped in front early and easily handed the Nets their 22nd defeat in 31 road games.
New York 114, Indiana 95--Johnny Newman scored 28 points, and Rod Strickland, replacing injured playmaker Mark Jackson, had a career-high 20 to enable the Knicks to win their 25th in a row at home.
The Pacers trailed most of the way, but only 84-80 early in the last quarter. Strickland sank two jumpers to start a 30-15 burst that made the victory easy.
Atlanta 111, Miami 78--Dominique Wilkins scored 14 of his 26 points in the first quarter, and the Hawks went on to an easy win at Atlanta.
The Hawks ended a three-game losing streak by becoming the last team in the league to beat the Heat. Miami won the other meeting in Miami.