Toronto Raptors: Which teams threaten their championship hopes?

TORONTO, ON - MAY 21: Kyle Lowry
TORONTO, ON - MAY 21: Kyle Lowry /
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TORONTO, ON – FEBRUARY 13: James Harden of the Houston Rockets, Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors and Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors look on in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest during NBA All-Star Weekend 2016 at Air Canada Centre on February 13, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Houston Rockets

While the Eastern Conference might not pose a big threat to the Toronto Raptors’ chances, the Western Conference is a much different story. There is a reason why FiveThirtyEight gives them the highest percentage of reaching the finals ; they don’t have to go through Houston or Golden State to get there.

The Rockets have been fighting with the Golden State Warriors for top spot in the NBA rankings all season long. It got easier for them with the additions of Brandan Wright and Joe Johnson from the buyout market.

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The key to success for them as Gerald Bourguet of Hoops Habit notes is that with James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela in the lineup, the Rockets are 28-1 (as of Mar. 05).

They are currently on a 15-game winning streak and giving the Warriors a reason to be concerned, especially this season. Harden is making his strongest case yet as league MVP, posting a 60-point triple double this season but also remaining consistent all season.

They still have something to prove however. As good as they are offensively (second in the league at 114.0 points per game), they will need that effort on defence (10th in the league at 104.5 points per fame).

Shaun Powerll of recently spoke to Harden about their chances to make the Finals:

"“We can’t be comfortable and say we have the best record in the league. We still have to prove ourselves. We’re not at a time to relax at all,” said Harden. “We know how important this opportunity is. It’s up to us to take advantage of everything coming our way and make the most of it.”"

It is that type of mentality that keeps a team like the Rockets focused on the big picture, but the other problem is if things start to go wrong it could leave doubt in their minds. They know the Warriors are always going to be the favourite regardless of how good their record is, because of the reputation and talent the defending NBA champions have.

The Raptors will have those same doubts, but at least they will have more confidence knowing the Rockets and Warriors have a tougher battle ahead of them. Toronto still has a game to play against Houston on Mar. 09 at home, so that will be a big test to see where they stand as contenders.