We’re not only about Syracuse around here. After all, we do understand that, now and then, people decide to watch sports that don’t involve the Orange, for some reason we’re still working out. But as long as they do, we’ll be here with some glimpses from Around the Nation.

Heading into the halfway point of the 2016-17 NBA season, there have been a lot of different storylines. As historic as last season’s conclusion was, with Lebron James leading his hometown team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, to the NBA title after being on the verge of elimination by facing a 3-1 deficit, this NBA season has seen a lot of similar themes that made last season so great.

Despite the inevitable success of the top teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, and Cleveland Cavaliers, this season has seen not only the top teams play great, but other teams who weren’t expected to be great surpass all expectations. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest storylines of the 2016-17 NBA season so far.

1. Cavs vs. Warriors: Third Straight Finals Matchup?

No two NBA teams have ever faced each other in three successive, back-to-back-to-back finals matchups. This year the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are favorites to break that record. While LeBron James insists that the Warriors are not rivals, both teams have faced each other in many, controversial playoffs showdowns, and are favored to do so yet again in 2017 by oddsmakers. The rivalry between the Warriors, who are now armed with Kevin Durant, and Cleveland is the biggest storyline heading into the halfway mark of the season. The heated rivalry between both teams continued last night at Oracle Arena with the Warriors demolishing the Cavs 126-91, before their likely finals matchup.

2. Houston Rockets Return to the Top

Currently, just a single game away from holding the second seed in the hyper-competitive Western Conference, no one predicted that the Houston Rockets would be this good before the season started due to their mediocre campaign last year. Led by daily triple-double threat and MVP candidate James Harden, the Rockets have risen on many power rankings and become an elite team in the process. The real surprise in the Rockets’ season lies in how low their expectations were and how much they have outperformed. Even without starting center Clint Capela, who has been inactive due to an injury to his left fibula, the Rockets have gone 8-2 in their last ten games and should be even better once he returns on Tuesday.

3. Isaiah Thomas’s Rise to Stardom

At just 5-foot-9, no one expected Isaiah Thomas to be this good at basketball, or even have a career in the NBA. However, IT has made a habit of beating expectations. Following the 2011 draft, where he was drafted in the second round with the 60th overall pick, he’s now in his fifth season, and is 4th in the league in scoring, averaging 28.4 points-per-game along with better than six assists.

These numbers are not only All-Star worthy, but add Thomas into the MVP conversation as he has led his team, the Boston Celtics, to an excellent record at 26-15, which is currently good for the third seed in the Eastern Conference. Seeing if Isaiah will be able to continue at this pace for the next half of the season will be a key storyline to analyze.

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