Kyrie Irving.

3 reasons why the Boston Celtics' win over Warriors proves they are legitimate title contenders

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Coming into the season, it was easy to see that the Boston Celtics were going to be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference.

However, it was also fair to wonder if they'd be able to match up with top teams in the West, like the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs or the new-look Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Celtics have answered that question and more, though, with wins over San Antonio, OKC and, on Thursday night, Golden State in their current 14-game winning streak.

On Thursday, the Celtics took down the Warriors 92-88 in Boston in one of the most highly-anticipated games of the young season so far.

That was much more than just a November win for the Celtics, though - it proved they can legitimately contend for an NBA title this season.

Here are three reasons why the Boston Celtics have a chance to go all the way to the Finals this summer:

Charlotte Hornets v Boston Celtics

Marcus Smart can defend any guard in the league

Guarding talented wing players is important in the playoffs, and Smart has proven himself to be one of the league's best defenders outside the paint.

On Thursday night, Golden State guards Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were 0-for-6 on shots taken when defended by Smart. In fact, the entire Boston squad defended the Splash Brothers well, holding Curry to a measly nine points while Thompson only had 13.

Yes, it's still early in the regular season, but the Celtics are playing inspired defense so far this year and that's something you couldn't say about them at this point last year.

Boston Celtics v Philadelphia 76ers

Jaylen Brown is becoming a legitimate star

Brown was playing with a heavy heart on Thursday night after the loss of one of his best friends. However, his teammates appreciated him playing through the pain and were delighted with his all-around great performance.

Brown scored a team-high 22 points and also had seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks to lead the Celtics to victory.

In only his second year in the league, Brown is becoming a star on both ends of the court, adding a nice offensive game to his already stellar defensive play.

If he can keep performing like he is right now, the Celtics can compete for a title even without Gordon Hayward.

Golden State Warriors v Boston Celtics

The offense isn't totally reliant on Kyrie Irving

Last year, especially in the fourth quarter, the Celtics would stand around and watch to see what Isaiah Thomas would do with the ball in the clutch situations.

This year, that hasn't been the case with Irving at the point guard position, as he was only the team's third-leading scorer in Thursday night's win. Yes, he still had 16 important points, but Brown and Al Horford both had more.

It was fair to wonder if the Celtics would be able to develop a second scoring threat when Gordon Hayward went down with a gruesome leg injury, but other players have indeed stepped up this year and Boston's offense is downright dangerous.

Boston Celtics
Atlantic Division
Eastern Conference
NBA Finals
NBA Playoffs

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