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Isiah Thomas’ 1990 postseason ranked among NBA’s best individual playoff runs

Kevin Pelton of ESPN ranked the best individual postseasons since 1978, and Isiah Thomas’ 1990 playoffs placed No. 26:

Thomas was at his best in the playoffs during the second of the Pistons’ back-to-back championship runs in large part because of a well-timed hot streak beyond the arc. A 29 percent career 3-point shooter, Thomas went 11-of-16 (68.8 percent) from downtown as Detroit took care of Portland in five games. Thomas averaged 27.6 points and 7.0 assists in the series.

This is why people who are overly reliant on statistics sometimes underrate Thomas. Most statistical analysis for ranking players historically – besides “count the ringzzzzzz” discussions, which are technically statistically based – uses only regular-season numbers.

But Thomas had a real ability to elevate his game in the most crucial situations, and that should count for quite a bit. I’m fine with dismissing most clutch numbers, because they come from too small of samples, but Thomas’ playoff production was proven during 111 games. His 1990 postseason was just the best of many excellent playoff runs.

7 Comments

  • Jun 11, 201310:24 am
    by ryan

    Reply

    Isiah Thomas does get underrated a lot. I’m guilty of it myself. I think that the ability to rise to the occasion was really one of the hallmarks of that greats of that era.
     

  • Jun 11, 201310:53 am
    by Jeremy

    Reply

    I think he gets underrated a lot because of the era that he played during. The Lakers and/or Celtics played in nearly every NBA finals during that decade and Jordan was perhaps the most entertaining player out there (although yet to come into his own). If it weren’t for the longevity of the careers that Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, and Mark Jackson had, Zeke would be pushing 4th all time for career assists. For that matter, imagine if Zeke would have been able to play 3, 4 more seasons where he would stand in terms of career numbers. Yes, I know he was hampered by injuries and already on the decline, however, Stockton had several seasons in his mid-30s where he showed decline after the age of 33 (but still dished out 2,694 assists over the next 7 years).
     
    I also think Zeke is known more nationally for the whole Jordan/All-Star game/Dream team snub and the Magic/Homosexual/HIV comments than what he did on the court. The Lakers were playing at the Forum and attracting celebrities to games and Jordan was winning dunk contests and dropping 50, 60 pt games like no body’s business. Playing in Cobo/Silverdome wasn’t really the most glamorous setting in the league. Detroit’s physical play really wasn’t well received around the league. It doesn’t help that the two championships he did win in Detroit are really viewed as the Lakers’ demise and a road bump to Jordan’s reign. 

    • Jun 11, 201311:26 am
      by tarsier

      Reply

      There’s also the fact that the Bad Boys were not a very likable team unless you were rooting for them. So they’ll all be a bit underrated out of distaste.

    • Jun 11, 201311:33 am
      by G

      Reply

      Zeke suffers from his post-playing days overshadowing what he did on the court. He also suffers a bit from playing within a system that prevented him from putting up video game stats like Utah’s system helped Stockton’s assists. 

  • Jun 11, 201311:45 am
    by RyanK

    Reply

    The single greatest playoff performance of all-time was game 6 of the 1988 NBA finals.  There was not greater stage and he scored 25 points in the third quarter of the game while barely being able to limp up and down the court on a badly sprained ankle.  He rightfully won the NBA championship with his performance.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcGqJ1tAClw

    Then the refs made a phantom call against Laimbeer to give the game (and the NBA championship) to the Lakers…the replay showed it, zero contact happen but they still called the foul.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSHGG0sGUOc

    Every time I see Jordan sipping on a glass of gatoraid and Phil Jackson talking about making him a believer, I get sick to my stomach.  Isiah did this and gets little to no recognition while Jordan played a pansy with a stomach flu and they act like he did something un-human.  

  • Jun 11, 20132:09 pm
    by Mel

    Reply

    Zeke , popularity went down when he agreed with Rodman that Larry Bird would be an average player if he was a Brother. Before that he was like the third darling from the NBA. They loved his smile and the fact he showed love for his mom. So that and how Jordan and Phil Jacks dogged out the way the Pistons played back then. I think it was they played basketball like an art and the Pistons played like thugs, Introducing the Bad Boys. Which was crazy because we learned from the Celtics. The Celtics were worst than us. At that time you had over half the NBA playing Physical. The Pistons just learned to become better at it and became the last team to do it after Stern changed the rules to benefit Jordans soft Bulls reign.

  • Jun 11, 20136:56 pm
    by Grizz

    Reply

    Zeke is at least a top 3 all time NBA point guard …Like he said,… he made a choice to forego stats and make the team better to compete with the awesome Magic Lakers and Bird Celtics and Jordan Bulls .. NO team in NBA history ever had to face a trio of competition like that … Thomas’ Pistons won their fair share against the best ever teams as a group .. And this with Stern hating us every step of the way ..

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