"On Sunday, Cleveland beat the Atlanta Hawks 100-99 and advanced to the conference finals. Now that it has swept two playoff series, it's worth reevaluating this team. Are the Cavs that we've seen in the past three weeks that much different from the ones that went through so much drama in the previous 82 games? Are they significantly better than they were this time last year? The big change is obvious: Cleveland is taking and making more 3-pointers than anyone else in the postseason, which has made its offense almost unstoppable. Channing Frye was acquired at the trade deadline in order to help the Cavaliers space the floor, and when he's on the court with Love, there isn't a better-shooting big man duo in the league. In Game 2 against Atlanta, Cleveland shot 25-for-45 from 3-point range, setting an NBA record for 3s made in a game, regular season or playoffs. In the other three games, the Cavs shot 52-for-107 (48.6 percent). “They shot the piss out of the ball,” Hawks forward Paul Millsap said. Theoretically, it's not that difficult to figure out how to build an offense around James: simply surround him with as many shooters as possible. For the Cavs, though, the game has never looked as easy as it has in these playoffs. Unlike last year, James isn't grinding out ugly possessions, going one-on-one and playing almost every minute. Unlike the regular season, there haven't been any letdowns." "HOUSTON — A large blaze at a warehouse complex in Houston on Thursday caused explosions, forced the evacuation of hundreds of students from a nearby elementary school and led to the contamination of nearby creeks with pollutants. The fire that generated towering plumes of black smoke began around 10 a.m. in a home in the Spring Branch section of west Houston. The blaze spread to the nearby warehouse complex, engulfing several businesses there in flames, including Custom Packaging and Filling. Nearly 200 firefighters battled the fire at its height, but by Thursday afternoon, the blaze was under control and the focus was on extinguishing hot spots. Authorities have not said what they believe started the fire, which involved at least three structures. The runoff from the fire-fighting efforts carried pesticides and petroleum additives into nearby creeks, according to a Houston Fire Department statement. Environmental contractors were containing the petroleum additives Thursday at several points along Spring Branch Creek, but the pesticides are water-soluble and cannot be contained or removed from the creek’s waters, according to the statement." "Three men’s singles players and two doubles teams from the state of Oklahoma were extended invitations Wednesday to compete for NCAA individual national titles. Two women’s singles and a pair of doubles found spots in their brackets, as well. ITA No. 25 Axel Alvarez Llamas (Oklahoma), No. 46 Or Ram-Harel (Tulsa) and No. 52 Julian Cash (Oklahoma State) will compete in the men’s singles bracket, the NCAA announced Wednesday. No. 51 Alex Ghilea (OU) is listed as the fifth alternate. Alvarez Llamas played as the men’s singles overall No. 1 seed a year ago in Waco, Texas. However, he was upset by Baylor’s Tony Lupieri in the round of 32 in straight sets. Ram-Harel saw action in the singles competition last season, but didn’t get out of the first round. The doubles teams of OSU’s Arjun Kadhe/Julian Cash and OU’s Alvarez Llamas/Andrew Harris earned berths, as well." "Only one team in this series can crank up their defense enough to win them games. The Warriors’ offense feeds off that stingy defense — with or without Stephen Curry in the lineup, again Tuesday it was without — and the combination can lead to big runs. Such as a 34-12 fourth quarter. It was historic, as our own Dan Feldman pointed out on twitter. Golden State trailed by 17 at one point but came on in the fourth with a defensive energy that held Damian Lillard to 0-of-3 shooting and his entire Portland team to 26.5 percent shooting. Those miss shots fueled transition buckets and opportunities — Klay Thompson had 10 of his 27 points on the night in the fourth — and the Warriors roared back for a 110-99 victory. Golden State now leads the series 2-0 as it heads to Portland, with Game 3 not until Saturday. The biggest question is whether Curry will play in that game, or will the Warriors use their position of strength to get him more rest (as they did in the Houston series up 2-0)? The best player on the floor in Game 2 was Draymond Green, who finished with 17 points (on 20 shots), 14 rebound and seven assists. But that’s not where the damage he does starts — it’s on defense. His ability to defend the five, then show out high on pick-and-rolls to cut off Lillard or C.J. McCollum and take away their shots from three. With Curry out, Green also spends a lot of time as the guy initiating the Warriors offense. He crashes the boards. He protects the paint, including a key block late on Mason Plumlee. Green did it all. "
"Portland raced out to a lead using their vintage style — their defense wasn’t that good, but it was good enough (especially with a cold Thompson who kept missing open looks), and their offense was hitting everything. With the Warriors missing shots it was Portland using the opportunity to run — and it was the Warriors defenders doing a poor job of recognizing the shooters and closing them out. So the opposite of Game 1. Portland was also getting buckets from Al-Farouq Aminu — 10 first quarter points — and that’s always a good sign because he’s the guy (well, him and Maurice Harkless) that the Warriors will live with shooting. Still, you knew the run was coming. The Warriors went on a 14-2 run to make it close as the second half started to wind down. But then Portland responded with some real poise and an 8-0 run of their own. Portland was getting their buckets and had a 59-51 run at the half. They continued to hold that lead through the third quarter thanks to a red-hot Damian Lillard, who had 16 points in the quarter. But again, you knew the run was coming — and this time it was fueled by the Warriors defense. Festus Ezeli was a big part of that, his defensive presence in the paint helped turn things around, he was setting big screens to free up Thompson and others, plus he had eight points of his own in the quarter. When the game got tight Portland missed seven in a row down the stretch, and that sealed the Blazers fate. Meanwhile, the Warriors kept hitting shots, and the Blazers have no great options to change up the defense and alter that dynamic. Even without Curry, the versatility of the Warriors makes them tough to slow, let alone stop. Going home, maybe the Trial Blazers can hit some difficult shots and hold off a Warriors charge in the fourth quarter. Or, maybe Stephen Curry is back, and the Warriors just get better." "In the women’s brackets, Oklahoma State asserted its dominance in the state just three days after claiming the Big 12 Championship. No. 45 Vladica Babic and No. 47 Katarina Adamovic received singles invitations, and the pairings of Kelsey Laurente/Maria Alvarez and Carla Tur Mari/Viktoriya Lushkova will play for the doubles crown. Lushkova was also listed as the seventh singles alternate. Laurente and Lushkova teamed in the 2015 doubles bracket, losing in the first round. Lushkova advanced to the round of 32 in the singles portion. TU’s Saana Saarteinen received an automatic bid from the American Athletic Conference in the singles bracket. Neither the Sooners nor Golden Hurricane received berths in the women’s doubles bracket, however. Sixty-four singles players and 32 doubles teams received bids in the men’s and women’s championships. All matches will be best-of-three sets." "However, the waters in the creeks and bayous nearby remained high because of recent heavy rains and floods, and officials expected that will help dilute the pesticides and minimize their effects, fire officials said. Officials are warning the public to avoid the affected areas of Spring Branch Creek and ditches, canals and culverts until further notice. “There’s been no reported injuries. So we’re very fortunate,” said Ruy Lozano, Houston Fire Department spokesman. Telephone and email messages to Custom Packaging and Filling from The Associated Press drew no response Thursday. An alert ordering people in nearby homes and businesses to stay inside, close all windows and shut off air conditioning was lifted about 2 p.m. Fire officials also are warning the public to avoid water runoff in areas near the fire until environmental officials determine no hazard existed, according to a fire department statement." "To be clear: the Hawks are not a bunch of schlubs, and Cleveland didn't completely embarrass them. Atlanta trailed by just two points with three-and-a-half minutes left in Game 1, led going into the fourth quarter of Game 3 and had an opportunity to win on the final possession of Game 4. The Hawks often looked helpless defensively, though, and that is rare. They were second in the NBA in defensive rating in the regular season. “I just think we hit our stride at the right time,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “I think the last three or four weeks of the season we really started playing really good basketball on both ends and it's carried over. I think the guys are trusting the offense, they're trusting the defense, and when you're able to lock into a team for a seven-game series, it's easier. It's easier on you. You can kind of pick up their tendencies, what they like to do, what they're going to do after timeouts, how they're going to play you defensively.” In the close-out game, Love scored a game-high 27 points, going 8-for-15 from 3-point range and pulling down 13 rebounds. That's the sort of stat line that makes him unique, and the Cavs had no one who could do that this time last year. James came close to a triple-double, with 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. Kyrie Irving's eight assists were more important than his 21 points. Crucially, the team isn't just coasting by on talent alone -- the three of them made each other better. “I know these guys have been waiting on the opportunity to be in the postseason again after what happened last year with their injuries,” James said. “They've been building up towards this both mentally and physically. Obviously I can't say that I haven't waited for ‘em as well -- to get them back to this moment so I can be out there with them."