in collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The Bad Boys go back-to-back. For the second straight year, the Detroit Pistons are NBA Champions as they beat the Portland Trail Blazers in five games. The Pistons win Game 5 in Portland 92-90, closing the game on a 9-0 run over the final two minutes. Leading the Pistons run is Vinnie Johnson, who scores seven of the last nine points, including a 15-foot jumper in the final second as Isiah Thomas was named NBA Finals MVP.
After sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, the Detroit Pistons seeking to defend their crown posted a record of 59-23, the best record in the Eastern Conference under coach Chuck Daly. In the playoffs, the crushed the Indiana Pacers in three straight games. Next was the New York Knicks, who had stunned the Boston Celtics in the first round. The Knicks would provide little resistance to Detroit, losing in five games. The Eastern Conference Finals would be a war, as they needed seven games to beat a Chicago Bulls team on the verge of greatness.
Out West, things got jumbled in a surprising way. The Los Angeles Lakers were the best team in the NBA for coach Pat Riley, posting a record of 63-19. The Lakers needed four games to take down the Houston Rockets. In the second round, Showtime suddenly was canceled as they were eclipsed by the fifth seed Phoenix Suns in five games. After the shocking second-round upset, Riley announced his resignation from the Lakers. The upset of the Lakers opened the door for the Portland Trail Blazers, who finished 59-23 for coach Rick Adelman. In the playoffs, the Blazers swept the Denver Nuggets and edged the San Antonio Spurs in seven games before facing the Suns in the Western Conference Finals. Portland would beat Phoenix is six games to reach the NBA Finals for the second time in franchise history.
The NBA Finals began at the Palace of Auburn Hills in the Detroit suburbs. It was the Trail Blazers who started strong in Game 1, scoring 33 points in the first quarter. Portland maintained the lead into the fourth quarter and appeared on the verge of stealing home-court advantage as they led 90-80 with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Pistons having played in two straight finals got on track late in the fourth as Isiah Thomas, who had a game-high 33 points led a 7-0 run, giving Detroit its first lead with 1:49 left. Thomas later added the dagger as the Pistons won 105-99. Portland continued to give the Pistons all they could handle in Game 2, as Clyde Drexler led the way with 33 points. This time the Blazers were able to withstand the Pistons fourth-quarter run, winning 106-105 in overtime.
As the series shifted to the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, the Pistons were heading to a place they had not won since 1974. The Pistons would also be without Dennis Rodman, who was unable to play with an ankle injury. Making matters worse, Joe Dumars received word that his father died 30 minutes before the game. Dumars decided to play and led all scorers with 33 points, while Vinnie Johnson had 21 points off the bench to lead Detroit to a 121-106 victory. Vinnie Johnson had always been the Pistons' secret weapon, nicknamed the Microwave for his ability to get hot quickly off the bench.
The Trail Blazers got off to a fast start in Game 4, as Clyde Drexler led the way with 34 points. After trailing 32-22 at the end of the first quarter. The Pistons rallied in the second quarter behind Vinnie Johnson and the suffocating defense of Bill Laimbeer. Laimbeer fouled out for the second straight game, as the game went back and forth in the fourth quarter. Drexler hit two free throws to give the Trail Blazers a 107-106 lead with 31.8 seconds left. Isiah Thomas responded with a 22-foot jumper. After Joe Dumars stripped Kevin Porter, Thomas made a pair of free throws. Mark Aguirre fouled Porter to prevent a game-tying three-pointer. James Edward got the ball down court to Gerald Henderson, who made it 112-109 in favor of Detroit with 1.8 seconds left. Needing a miracle three, Danny Young got the ball and made the shot, but referee Earl Strom ruled that he did not get the shot off before the buzzer.
With a chance to close out the series, the Pistons had a 46-42 lead at the half, as the game was taking the shape of a defensive battle that played into Detroit’s had. The Blazers came out strong in the second half and had a 90-83 lead with 2:05 left. This was when the Pistons went to the Microwave. Earlier in the fourth quarter, he had all nine points in a 9-0 run that briefly gave the Pistons a 77-76 lead. Johnson would score seven points this time as the Pistons closed the game on a 9-0. The final points were a 15-foot jumper over Jerome Kersey that gave Detroit a 92-90 lead with 0.7 seconds left. The Blazers did not have enough time to answer as the Pistons celebrated another championship.
The 1990 NBA Finals marked the end of an era, as it was the last time the NBA Finals were shown on CBS. The NBA had gone from tape delay to prime in 16 years on CBS, as NBC was soon to take over for the 1990/91 season.