CANTON, Mass. — The Golden State Warriors are the class of the NBA after winning the last two NBA Finals over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in just nine games.
Loaded with a roster that features superstars such as Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, the Warriors are the team everyone in the league will be chasing during the 2018-19 season.
The team with the best chance to dethrone the Warriors likely is the Boston Celtics, and they are excited for the challenge of preventing Golden State from becoming the first back-to-back-to-back champions since 2002.
“Obviously, they’re the defending champs. Everyone respects them. We respect them,” Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said.
“We believe in ourselves and the guys we have in the locker room. It’s a long process, a long season. We start practice (Tuesday). We definitely feel like we can compete and beat anybody in a seven-game series. It’s not going to be easy. It’ll be tough.”
The Celtics’ starting five of Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving probably is the best-equipped lineup from any team to take down the Warriors. This C’s lineup is as versatile as it comes, and all five of these guys can shoot from the outside and finish at the rim.
Add in a deep bench and you can understand why Vegas oddsmakers believe Boston has closed the gap and will reach the NBA Finals for a showdown with the Warriors.
Irving, however, doesn’t want the C’s to get ahead of themselves.
“We haven’t closed it at all at this point,” Irving said. “All 30 teams are looking to go 82-0. I think we have the talent to compete with them. The quote of me saying I think we can beat them in a seven-game series — because I really do feel like that. We won’t know until we put in the work and sacrifice the amount of time and commit ourselves to being a quality team before we can even echo a championship team. It’s going to take time and I’m willing to be patient. I’m willing to put in the work and help all of our guys. …”
Irving knows what it’s like to beat the Warriors in a championship series. He was part of the last team to do it — the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers that won Game 7 over the Warriors on the road to clinching their first title in team history. Irving averaged 27.1 points in that seven-game series and hit the championship-clinching 3-pointer in the final minute of Game 7.
He and Aron Baynes are the only current Celtics players with championship-winning experience, so you can expect both to take on a leadership role as the C’s begin what they hope is a journey toward banner No. 18.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images