The Detroit Pistons weren't on the up and up by the time the 1990-91 playoffs rolled around. After Isiah Thomas underwent right wrist surgery in late January, the Pistons limped to a 17-19 record down the stretch, capping a tumultuous regular season that left many to wonder how much the Bad Boys had left in the tank.
"Nobody even gives a shit anymore, the coaches included," Thomas charged following an April 10 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. "There are too many different agendas. Everybody's part-time this and part-time that. We can't keep fooling ourselves and say, "Yeah, we're going to be all right.' Someday you have to get started."
Adding to their struggle was a league-wide mandate introduced for the '90-'91 season intended to cut down on the Pistons' overly physical style of play. The NBA emphasized a new flagrant foul rule in '91 that provided two free throws and possession for the opposition. What was previously considered good hard-nosed basketball or at worst, a touch overzealous, suddenly became critical mistakes.
The league's new approach to excessive physical contact was on clear display during Game 2 of the Pistons' Eastern Conference Finals series against the Chicago Bulls. With a target on their backs, the Pistons were whistled for three flagrant fouls of variable degrees of seriousness in a 105-97 loss.
Rules infractions aside, the Pistons ran into a 61-win buzzsaw on a mission. The Bulls eliminated the Pistons handily, completing a four-game sweep on May 27.