For a city that has witnessed a lot of success with its professional sports teams, we haven't experienced a whole lot of championship Game 7's in Detroit recently. In fact, Detroit teams have been involved in just 2 in my lifetime. But in this same span of time (and I'm no spring chicken), we have NEVER HOSTED a championship Game 7 in the city of Detroit. So, it goes without saying that we're pretty excited about tomorrow night's Stanley Cup Final Game 7 between the defending champion Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Joe Louis Arena, which gets underway at 8pm ET on NBC.
The Wings have been involved in 19 Game 7's in the illustrious history of the organization, winning 12 of those series. They are 5-3 in Game 7's since 1987. The Wings are 3-3 all-time in Stanley Cup Finals that went a full 7 games. This is the first of 6 Stanley Cup Finals in the last 14 years for the Red Wings that is going to 7 games. The Detroit Tigers have played in 2 World Series in the last 25 years, but neither went past 5 games. The Tags are 2-3 all-time in Game 7's, all of which were in World Series play.
So that brings us to the Detroit Pistons and our 2 and only 2 championship Game 7's of the last 4 decades for Detroit teams. The Detroit version of the Pistons are 5-5 all-time in Game 7's (their predecessors, the Fort Wayne Pistons, were 0-1). They have been to 5 NBA Finals since 1988, winning 3 titles. However, the 2 NBA Finals that they lost both went to 7 games. Both of these Game 7 losses were absolutely heart-breaking, quite possibly the most devastating losses in my Detroit sports life. Let's take a trip down memory lane:
June 21, 1988; Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Detroit Pistons and the Los Angeles Lakers:
The Detroit Pistons had finally gotten past their Eastern Conference arch nemesis, the Boston Celtics, in the Eastern Conference Finals. They ran into the juggernaut that was the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. "Showtime", led by Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, had won 4 NBA titles in the 1980's to this point, including the 1987 Championship. After that title, coach Pat Riley had guaranteed that the Lakers would repeat in 1987-88.
The Pistons surprised the Lakers by winning game one at the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, taking advantage of a tired Lakers team that was coming off of consecutive 7 game series against the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks. After the Lakers won games 2 and 3, the Pistons won the last two games ever played at the Pontiac Silverdome to head back to L.A. for game 6 up 3-2. Isiah Thomas stepped on Michael Cooper's foot in the third quarter of game 6, severely spraining his ankle, yet he missed only 35 seconds after sustaining the injury before returning to the court with a significant limp. He scored 43 points including 25 in that third quarter, but the Pistons would lose by a point when Jabbar hit two free throws at the end of the game after Bill Laimbeer was whistled for a phantom foul.
Game 7 was a nightmare. The Pistons led by 5 at the half, but during the halftime break Isiah's ankle stiffened up and he played very little during the second half. The Pistons fought back valiantly from a 15 point 4th quarter deficit to make it a one point game in the waning seconds, but after A.C. Green hit a lay-up to make it a 3 point game, fans started to rush the court with several seconds left on the clock, and Zeke was knocked to the court by Magic Johnson as time expired, yet the referees called no foul and did nothing about the fact that the fans had interrupted the game prematurely. The Lakers rushed to the lockerroom to celebrate.
June 23, 2005; Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Detroit Pistons and the San Antonio Spurs:
The Pistons were the defending NBA champions. The Spurs had won the title in 2003, and this was the first NBA Finals matching the previous 2 champions since 1987 when the Lakers battled the Celtics. The Pistons had a much more difficult path to the Finals, beating Central division rival Indiana in the conference semifinals in 6 games and Shaquille O'Neal and the #1 seeded Miami Heat in 7 games in the conference finals.
The home team won the first 4 games of the series before the Spurs won a pivotal game 5 in Detroit. This was the game when "Big shot Bobby" Horry hit a three pointer from the corner when Rasheed Wallace left him to open to double team the ball in the corner. The Spurs won by a point in overtime. Down 3-2, the Pistons went to San Antonio and won game 6 before a hostile crowd, becoming the first road team to win a game 6 being down 3-2 in an NBA series. Unfortunately, the Spurs pulled out a 7 point win in game 7 by shooting lights-out from three point range. The Pistons core of Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace would return to three more conference finals, but never again to the NBA Finals.
So we need to exorcise the championship Game 7 demons tomorrow night. Ironically, the Tigers start an interleague series in Pittsburgh tomorrow evening. Coincidence? Well, yeah, actually it is. But let's go for the sweep anyway- we can accomplish a lot by doing so, including honoring the 1909 Detroit Tigers who lost a World Series Game 7 to the Pirates.
Go Wings! LET'S EXERCISE THE DEMONS!