During the 1988-89 season, the Lakers were on a mission to become the first team since the Celtics in the mid-1960s to win three straight NBA championships. But the task wouldn't be easy. L.A.'s roster was aging - with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar announcing his retirement after the season's end at the age of 41 - and other teams in the west were finally catching up after the Lakers' decade of complete mastery.
But after eking out the Pacific Division title by only two games over the Phoenix Suns, the Lakers were surprisingly dominant. They swept Portland, Seattle and then the upstart Suns in the conference finals, going an unprecedented 11-0 to reach their third straight NBA Finals.
Disaster, however, struck before they even played their first game in the Palace of Auburn Hills in a Finals rematch against the Detroit Pistons. Byron Scott severely pulled his hamstring during practice before Game 1 and would be out of the Finals. The short-handed Lakers lost their first playoff game in the series opener, but seemed to have regained their footing in Game 2, taking a double-digit lead late in the third quarter.
This was when the curtains fell on the Lakers dynasty and their Three-peat dreams. Magic Johnson, the reigning league MVP, also pulled his hamstring in the closing minutes of the period and had to leave the game. The Pistons came back to take Game 2 and never looked back. With Scott shelved and Johnson playing just five minutes in Game 3 and not at all after that, the Lakers' backcourt largely consisted of Tony Campbell and David Rivers, in addition to an overworked Michael Cooper. They were no match for the Pistons' dynamic backcourt trio of Isiah Thomas, Vinnie Johnson and Finals MVP Joe Dumars, who collectively averaged an astounding 66 points per game during the four-game sweep.