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    My golden pick: Warriors in six

    Jun 1, 2017

    CHICAGO -  When I meander my way to Cleveland, Ohio next week for Game 3 of the much-anticipated Warriors-Cavaliers championship trilogy, it will mark the 14th time that I will cover the NBA Finals as a credentialed writer.

    Although I missed the roller-coaster ride that was Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty, I've had the satisfying treasure of witnessing some of the best performers and performances in pro basketball's largest stage.

    Allen Iverson was a delight in 2001. A wiry 6-feet and 165 pounds, he proved that big things sometimes come in small packages. 

    Shaq and Kobe, when they were playing together instead of fighting each other, were unstoppable in 2002 as the LA Lakers completed a rare 3-peat.

    I saw coach Larry Brown's superstar-less Detroit Pistons win it all in 2004. 

    I marveled at the collective might of the San Antonio Spurs in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. 

    And I was in awe of the 2011 Dallas Mavericks, who reached the Promised Land largely on the strength of Dirk Nowtizki's indefensible, one-legged fadeaway jumpers.

    When LeBron James and his pals, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. formed a triumvirate that produced two titles in 2012 and 2013, I thought I've seen it all. 

    Until Golden State Warriors came along. 

    SIMPLY THE BEST. This team is absolutely terrifying. They score 120.7 points per 100 possessions, the highest playoffs mark in 40 years. They're also an elite defensive team, holding opponents to 43.5 percent  shooting from the field and 32.4 percent from long distance.

    Unlike last year's ill-fated campaign, Golden State is not exhausted by a 73-win chase and their leader, Steph Curry, is healthy, averaging 28.6 points per game during the Warriors' 12-0 post-season romp.

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    Having missed 21 regular season games with a leg injury, a very fresh Kevin Durant, the new kid on the block, is quite the professional scorer. Norming 25.2 points a contest, the 2014 league MVP is making 55.6 percent of his shots and 41.7 percent of his threes.    

    While Klay Thompson is struggling, he still is an All-Star who can erupt on short notice. 

    With the nightmare of last year's Game 5 suspension squarely behind him, Draymond Green is behaving nicely, channeling positive vibes that translate into 13.9 points, 8.7 rebounds and 7.2 assists a game.

    But taking the Cavaliers lightly is to underestimate the power of a storm. 

    There is a reason why LeBron James is playing in his seventh consecutive NBA Finals. He is a generational talent, one we see as seldom as Haley's comet. 

    Unlike last year's Finals when he guarded a misfiring Harrison Barnes (5-for-32 in Games 5, 6 and 7), James will have his hands full running after Durant, a task that will wear down the King like a bad habit.

    Kyrie Irving is a stud who doesn't shrink in the big moments. Blessed with divine handles, he is unguardable, but his ball protection and shot selection can sometimes leave a lot to be desired.  

    Kevin Love can score (17.2) and rebound (10.4) with the best of them, but bless his UCLA heart, the dude can barely play defense, a liability that will be difficult to hide and overcome. 

    Cleveland's bench is terrific but it doesn't have nearly the same firepower and experience as the Warriors' supporting cast that is spearheaded by Andre Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals MVP.

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    Warriors in six.

    STEPH DELIVERS. One night before the LA Clippers hosted the Golden State Warriors at the Staples Center last April 2015, I had dinner with Senator Manny Pacquiao, then a congressman, at his opulent home in Los Angeles.

    Among those who joined us for a feast of chicken and fish stew were a couple of Pacquiao's Pastor friends and a Warriors scout, who helped arrange a meeting between the champ's two kids - Michael and Jimwell - and Steph Curry.

    After the game the following night, the Warriors scout, who has since been promoted to assistant coach, told me that there was a huge problem: the agreed four people who were to meet Curry inside the Warriors locker room had swelled to a crowded dozen. Yikes.

    But Pacquiao's children did not miss the opportunity of a lifetime because Curry went way out of his way to meet them at the VIP area instead. Not only that, the two-time MVP stuck around for a few photos and small talk.

    Unlike LeBron, who can be distant and aloof, Curry is a selfless and very approachable star, who has willingly embraced his celebrity and the hoopla that comes with it. 

    I can speak of the same for Durant, who was once kind enough to give me a short interview even after media availability was over.

    Stripped of their uniforms and 3-point exploits, Curry and Durant are simply just two really, really good guys. How can you resist from rooting for them?

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