GOLDEN State have been all kinds of dominant over the past 72 months. They chalked up their record 250th win in the past three seasons (an NBA record) on Monday night as they swept the Spurs, becoming the first team to go 12-0 in the playoffs along the way. Plenty of people are skeptical over their success due to other teams not being at full capacity, while others believe they are on the verge of completing one of the most dominant stretches we have ever seen from a team. I’m here to uncover the truth!!
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ON paper 12-0 looks incredible, although the numbers don’t always tell the whole story. In the Warriors last 11 playoff series only twice has the opposition had a healthy starting five for the entire series. Rewinding to 2015 and each team they faced in a series lost a starter to injury for some period of time. In the Finals they claimed victory over a Cavs team without their 2nd and 3rd best players in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love and fast forwarding to the present they avoided Kawhi Leonard for 3 and 1/2 of the last 4. Last playoffs opposing teams had no excuses, with all of them playing at near full strength. However, when they met a full strength Cavs they famously gave up a 3-1 lead and the title on their home court, despite setting the NBA record for the most wins in the regular season with 73. This season their 12-0 record has come with them dodging starters Jusuf Nurkic, George Hill, Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker in some capacity. Now I’m not saying that the likes of Hill could have swung the series, but it is worth noting that no team they have beat in the playoffs has been at full strength.
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Making three Finals series in three straight seasons is an impressive feat, regardless of your conference. The Warriors have crushed the championship dreams of guys like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and until this year, Kevin Durant over the past few seasons. The have done so by deploying a team first style of basketball, with everyone buying in to Steve Kerr’s system. A large part of that sharing mentality instilled by Kerr and ability to make the extra pass doesn’t land on the shoulders of their point guard, but rather their primary playmaker in Draymond Green. Along with Green’s playmaking and growth, the teams depth is a massive strength with guys like Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala and Ian Clark all providing the Warriors with a trusty bench unit to use when the starters need a breather. That was something they sacrificed by bringing in Kevin Durant this year, although lesser known names like JaVale McGee, David West and Patrick McCaw have picked up the slack were necessary this year, especially in the playoffs. Oh and did I mention that this year they have done all of this without their head coach? The fact Steve Kerr’s status is still up in the air for the Finals is a testament to the focus and mentality of this group.
IN the series against the Spurs, the Warriors had 114 assists on 183 field goals. In other words 62.3% of the buckets were assisted on. The Cavs? They check in at 57% (93 assists on 163 field goals) of their buckets in the series against Boston. What’s surprising though is that the Warriors percentage is down from their season average of 69.8%, while the Cavaliers are almost bang on theirs (56.5%). In 11 out of 12 Warriors playoff games, seven or more players have recorded an assist and in the one game they didn’t they still had six players and only nine players actually took to the floor. So how do these assist numbers dig into the Warriors success over the last three years? The ‘Steve Kerr system’ has seen the Warriors lead teams in average assists for the last three years in both the regular season AND the postseason. FOR THREE STRAIGHT YEARS. They don’t have the likes of Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook or John Wall racking up incredible assist numbers. And sure Curry and Green do usually feature among the league leaders, but this team is willing to make that cliche extra pass and sacrifice their shots for the good of the team.
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WHAT really impresses me though, and the message you should take away from this article is the fact that these assist numbers haven’t diminished since KD joined the Dubs. In fact they averaged over 30 assists a game in 2016/17 which gives them some of the best assist numbers for a team in NBA history. THAT sharing mentality and the trust each Warriors player has in each other is the reason they have been so dominant over the past 72 months. Forget the fact that they fell short last season or other teams were missing pieces at key times, that’s just playoff basketball, everyone is hurting at this time of year (the Cavs have faced the Raptors with a banged up Kyle Lowry and a Celtics team virtually without Isaiah Thomas this playoffs as well). Time and time again they have rose to the occasion and this postseason they have done it without their head coach on the sidelines. After winning 27 of their last 28 games, it’s tough to see such a unified group drop four of the last seven games this season. We could genuinely be in for a 16-0 sweep of the postseason.
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