Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving is confident that his team has a legitimate chance of winning a title in 2019.

Such a task would almost certainly involve toppling the back-to-back champion Golden State Warriors, and to the surprise of no one, that’s exactly who Irving envisions the Celtics having to go through to accomplish such a goal.

“Can we beat Golden State in a seven-game series? Yes,” Irving told ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan. “Because of who we have, and what we’re establishing here, not just for this season, but for hopefully for the next few years, something that’s pretty special.”

In defense of such a bold statement, it’s worth noting that the Celtics are among those that have given the Warriors fits throughout their reign over the NBA, with the C’s posting a 3-2 record against Golden State in their last five head-to-heads. In Irving’s first year in Boston, the Celtics defeated the Dubs by a 92-88 score in their early-season meeting in Boston, and fell by just four points when the teams moved to Oracle for a late January, nationally televised showdown.

But Irving’s faith in the Celtics comes after having a front row seat to the Celtics finishing within a fourth-quarter lead of eliminating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. And watching them do it without both he and max contract free agent addition Gordon Hayward for the entirety of their postseason run.

And there’s something to be said for Irving’s familiarity with the Warriors.

Said Irving: “I’ve played against Golden State in three straight Finals — two that I was able to participate in — and seeing them evolve, with the talent they have, and then adding DeMarcus Cousins, it’s like ‘OK, the whole league is on notice.’

“But there’s one factor that they’re aware of, and I’m aware of, and that’s that I’ve seen them up close. I’ve played them so many times. We’ve gone in a seven-game series [in Cleveland], so I know what it takes [to beat them].”

The Warriors, despite their success over the last two postseasons, are seemingly aware of Kyrie’s impact on a series, too.

“I’m happy I don’t have to check Kyrie anymore, though, that’s for sure,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who went against Irving in three straight Finals, said during the 2018 NBA Finals. “That guy… he is tough.”

But beating the Warriors takes a different kind of mindset, as Irving knows it on him to help instill that mindset into his team.

“Now, how do I communicate to our guys that this is the top-tier team, and we have to grow immensely in the next six months to beat them consistently?” Irving asked. “Not just one game, not just two, but in a seven-game series, because they’re so dang great. They’re a powerhouse.’