Foster: Isiah Thomas says Lions should embrace sting

Terry Foster
The Detroit News

Hall of Fame Pistons guard Isiah Thomas sees similarities between the championship Pistons of the "Bad Boys" era, and the modern-day Lions.

During the 1988 NBA Finals the Pistons lost on the Bill Laimbeer phantom foul against Los Angeles Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar that cost the team a championship. The following season the motivated and focused Pistons won the first of back-to-back titles.

This town still stings over the pass interference flag that was picked up during a crucial moment against the Dallas Cowboys last week. Thomas believes the sting of the Cowboys loss can motivate the Lions much in the way the Pistons were motivated by the stinging loss to the Lakers.

"When I look at the Lions, they are very close to being the Seattle Seahawks," Thomas said. "Their mentality is right. They got a coach now that believes in them and that puts them in a position to be themselves and really go out and do their thing. They just need to stay together, add a couple more good draft picks and be a little bit more committed."

After losing to the Lakers, Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, Vinnie Johnson, Joe Dumars and Thomas talked about the sting of losing more than the Laimbeer play. The Pistons led the Lakers 3-2 in the series and were up a point when Abdul-Jabbar went up for a sky hook over the outstretched hands of Laimbeer. Much to the Pistons' chagrin an official blew his whistle and sent Abdul-Jabbar to the line where he made both free throws to ultimately win the game.

The Lakers won Game 7 two nights later as Thomas was hobbled on a bad foot.

Detroit fans still talk about the foul to this day.

The sting of losing

Remember the sting of losing, not the play. That is the advice Thomas gives to the Lions.

He also challenged the leaders of the team to push teammates way before training camp. He said they will know if players are settling or hungry during team meetings. That is the base of a championship team.

We have a saying around here called "Same Old Lions." In other words, things will never change because a culture of losing dominates the dressing room. New faces like Golden Tate and James Ihedigbo are changing that culture. Thomas senses from afar that the culture has changed.

"Defensively they are probably a step away from being totally dominant," he said. "That is the side you want domination on the ball. When you think of Seattle you don't think of their offense, you think of their defense. They are really close. The question is can they stay hungry? Can they keep the same hunger that is going to help them win or are they just satisfied with a good showing."

Point guard Isiah Thomas led the Pistons to back-to-back NBA titles in 1989 and 1990.

Looking for home

The Lions good showing was an 11-5 record. However, they were forced to play their first playoff game on the road at Dallas because they lost a critical game against Green Bay to end the regular season. When they made the playoffs three years ago they lost at New Orleans.

The Lions have played their last six playoff games on the road and have lost them all. Their last playoff victory was in 1991 when they beat the Cowboys at the Pontiac Silverdome.

Thomas said the Pistons were obsessed with having home-court advantage throughout the playoffs. It is something the Lions should strive for as well. Three of the four teams remaining in Super Bowl contention won home games last week. The lone wolf was Indianapolis, which won at Denver against quarterback Peyton Manning, who has nine one-and-dones in the playoffs for his career.

The Pistons had the home-court edge during both of their championship seasons in the Bad Boy era.

"They have to be committed to having the best record and having home-field advantage," Thomas said. "It is hard to win playoff games on the road. If you are going to continue to take that path and try to beat teams every week on the road to get to the Super Bowl, that is a hard road to go. You want to get the bye week. You want to just have to win two games to go to the Super Bowl. That is how they have to look at it next season and every game has to be at home."

terry.foster@detroitnews.com

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