The Golden State Warriors (GSW) were by far the leader in assists and team play in the 2016-2017 season with 30.1 average assists per game, way ahead of second place Boston who had 25.5.
In the critical Game 3 of the 2017 Finals between GSW and the Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavs), GSW who won in the closing minutes, had 29 assists versus the Cavs 17. Interestingly, GSW had more assists than the Cavs in each quarter except in the third, the only quarter that ended with the Cavs ahead.
I also think I see a pattern with GSW, at least in the playoffs, which is a tendency when things get hot and heavy, to move away, like many teams do I imagine, from team play and assists to one-man-show heroics, often in desperate 3-point attempts. In Game 3, GSW stormed out of the gate in the first quarter with 13 assists versus the Cavs 4 assists and GSW lead at the end of the quarter 39-32. But from there GSW’s assists went down to 8 in the second quarter and 4 in each of the last two quarters.
GSW’s leaders in assists in Game 3, Green, Curry, and Iguodala, went from multiple assists in the first half to one assist each in the second half and GSW almost lost. I think moving away from team play and assists is why GSW lost to the Cavs in 2016.
Rebounding is another key to GSW’s success, rebounding 44 times versus the Cavs 37 in Game 3. GSW rebounding stayed steady throughout the game. Though important, turnovers don’t seem to be as critical as assists to GSW. In Game 3 GSW turned the ball over more than the Cavs.
If GSW “dances with what brung ’em” and keeps up the team play and assists throughout Game 4, they should win. The key is not panicking and going into one-man-show heroics. They need to play all loosey goosey and play their game – the most fun team to watch in the NBA because it is full of passing and team play.