Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, April 15: The bracket’s set. Here's what to know (now)

The 20-team postseason field is set. Check out the Play-In and Playoff matchups and schedule in today's edition.

Starting 5

We made it, Starting 5 fam.

With the bracket locked & postseason tipping off Tuesday … what story are you looking forward to most?

Tap here to let us know, and keep reading for what’s coming.


What’s inside today’s edition? 

Postseason seeds set: The bracket is set for the SoFi NBA Play-In Tournament (April 16-19) and NBA Playoffs Presented by Google Pixel (beginning April 20)

How the West was won: OKC made history with its 1st-place finish, while Denver and Phoenix moved up

NY takes No. 2 seed: The Knicks jumped the Bucks, while the rest of the East held steady

Key storylines: Playoff and In-Season Tournament rematches highlight postseason matchups

What they’re saying: Players and coaches sound off on their postseason aspirations


Last night’s scores & what to watch today.

2024 WNBA Draft (7:30 ET, ESPN): Watch the next generation of WNBA stars enter the league with a class headlined by Caitlin Clark, Cameron Brink, Kamilla Cardoso, Rickea Jackson, and Angel Reese

The SoFi NBA Play-In Tournament tips off Tuesday on TNT, with Lakers-Pelicans at 7:30 ET and Warriors-Kings at 10 ET.


Eastern Conference Playoff Matchups

  • (1) Celtics vs. TBD (Winner of 2nd Play-In game): Game 1 Sunday (Time & TV TBD)
  • (2) Knicks vs. TBD (Winner of Sixers-Heat Play-In): Game 1 Saturday (Time & TV TBD)
  • (3) Bucks vs. (6) Pacers: Game 1 Sunday (Time & TV TBD)
  • (4) Cavs vs. (5) Magic: Game 1 Saturday (Time & TV TBD)

Eastern Conference Play-In Matchups

  • (7) Sixers vs. (8) Heat: Wednesday, 7 ET, ESPN (Winner 7th Seed)
  • (9) Bulls vs. (10) Hawks: Wednesday, 9:30 ET, ESPN (Loser Out)
  • Loser of (7) vs. (8) hosts Winner of (9) vs. (10): Friday, Time TBD, ESPN

Western Conference Playoff Matchups

  • (1) Thunder vs. TBD (Winner of 2nd Play-In game): Game 1 Sunday (Time & TV TBD)
  • (2) Nuggets vs. TBD (Winner of Pelicans-Lakers Play-In): Game 1 Saturday (Time & TV TBD)
  • (3) Wolves vs. (6) Suns: Game 1 Saturday (Time & TV TBD)
  • (4) Clippers vs. (5) Mavs: Game 1 Sunday (Time & TV TBD)

Western Conference Play-In Matchups

  • (7) Pelicans vs. (8) Lakers: Tuesday, 7:30 ET, TNT (Winner 7th Seed)
  • (9) Kings vs. (10) Warriors: Tuesday, 10 ET, TNT (Loser Out)
  • Loser of (7) vs. (8) hosts Winner of (9) vs. (10): Friday, Time TBD, TNT


The Thunder dominate the Mavs and seal the No. 1 seed in the West as a 3-team chase for that slot unfolds throughout Sunday.

Thunder clinch 1st seed: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (15 pts) led the Thunder past the shorthanded Mavs, 135-86. OKC became the youngest team to ever finish 1st in a conference and the 5th team to improve from a 10th-best finish (or worse) to a 1st-place finish the next season. | Recap

Nuggets rise to 2nd seed: Jamal Murray (21 pts) and Nikola Jokic (15 pts, 15 reb) helped the Nuggets match their franchise record for wins in a season (57) and climb from 3rd to 2nd in the West with a 126-111 win over GG Jackson (44 pts) and the Grizzlies. | Recap

See you again Saturday: Bradley Beal (36 pts, 6-6 on 3s) led the Suns to a 125-106 win over Minnesota to lift the Suns out of the Play-In and set up a first-round rematch with the Wolves. The Suns swept the season series (3-0), while Minnesota dropped from 2nd to 3rd in the West standings. | Recap

See you again Tuesday: Anthony Davis (30 pts, 11 reb) and LeBron James (28 pts, 11 reb, 17 ast) led the Lakers to a 124-108 win over the Pelicans to clinch the 8th seed, drop NOLA from 6th to 7th, and set up a rematch on Tuesday in the 7 vs. 8 Play-In game. | Recap

Kings Lock In 9th: De’Aaron Fox (24 pts) led the Kings past the Blazers, 121-82, to set up a rematch with the Warriors in a win-or-go-home Play-In after last year’s epic 7-game series. Domantas Sabonis (18 pts, 11 reb) became the 7th player ever and the first since Moses Malone (1978-79) to post 77 double-doubles in a season. | Recap

Warriors Finish 10th: Playing without Steph Curry and Draymond Green, Klay Thompson (25 pts, 6 3s) led the Warriors past the Jazz, 123-116. The Warriors head to Sacramento to face the Northern California rival Kings in the Play-In on Tuesday. | Recap

Rockets Finish .500: After finishing with 22 or fewer wins each of the past three seasons, the Rockets got win No. 41, defeating the Clippers 116-105. Cam Whitmore (21 pts) led Houston, while LA rested its key players with the 4th seed locked. | Recap


Brunson’s 40 lifts Knicks: Jalen Brunson posted his 11th 40-point game of the season – tying Luka for the league-lead and tying Patrick Ewing for 2nd-most ever in a season by a Knick – to lead NY to a dramatic OT win over Chicago to earn the No. 2 seed. | Recap

Magic drop Bucks: Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner combined for 51 to lead Orlando past Milwaukee, 113-88, to secure the 5th seed (vs. Cleveland) and drop the Bucks to the 3rd seed (vs. Indiana). | Recap

Hornets stun Cavs: The Hornets closed the game on a 30-7 run to beat the Cavs 120-110 and dash Cleveland’s hopes of climbing in the East. Nick Smith Jr. (24 pts, 6 3s) led Charlotte while Max Strus (14 pts, 10 reb, 11 ast) posted his first career triple-double. | Recap

One last offensive explosion: Indy beat Atlanta 157-115 to become the 3rd team with at least four 150+ point games in a season (1971-72 Lakers, 1978-79 Spurs) and the 4th team with at least 81 100+ point games (1981-82 and 1986-87 Nuggets, 1971-72 Lakers). | Recap

Sixers win 8th straight: Tyrese Maxey scored 26 to lead Philly past Brooklyn, 107-86, to close the regular season hot as they get set to host their first Play-In game against the Heat on Wednesday. After sitting Sunday for precautionary reasons, Joel Embiid is expected to be available. | Recap

Can the Heat do it again?: Last season, the Heat became the 1st team to go from the Play-In to the Finals. They beat the Raptors on Sunday, but remain in the Play-In and will head to Philly for the 7 vs. 8 game. | Recap

Payton Pritchard goes for a career-high 38 points as the Celtics defeat the Wizards.

4th most wins: Payton Pritchard (38 pts, 12 ast) led the Celtics to their 64th win – 4th-most in franchise history and the most since their last title run in 2007-08 (66). Boston won the East by 14 games, the largest gap between 1st and 2nd in a conference in 48 seasons. | Recap

Spurs close season with win: Sandro Mamukelashvili (18 pts, 8 reb) led eight Spurs in double figures to secure a 123-95 win over James Wiseman (21 pts, 17 reb) and the Pistons in the final game of the year for both teams. | Recap


Records & Firsts

  • OKC didn’t just become the youngest team to win a conference — it did it by nearly 2 years. The Thunder’s average age of 23.92 years (based on minutes played) beat out the 1977-78 Blazers’ record of 25.71
  • The Thunder also became the 7th different West champ in the last 7 years, the longest stretch in the West under the new Playoff format, which debuted in 1983-84
  • Boston capped the 15th 60+ win season in team history, and the first since its title run in 2008
  • The Pacers’ 30.8 apg marked the third-highest total in league history, as Indy became the first team since the 2017-18 Warriors to lead the NBA in pts and ast per game

Stars Rising

  • OKC’s young core – led by Kia MVP candidate SGA and Kia Rookie of the Year candidate Chet Holmgren – will be making its Playoffs debut, after getting knocked out of the Play-In last year
  • Anthony Edwards & the Wolves, who just missed out on the West No. 1 seed, are looking for the first postseason series win of Ant’s career
  • Paolo Banchero & Orlando will see most of the team’s young core make their postseason debut
  • Breakout seasons from Tyrese Maxey, Bam Adebayo, Tyrese Haliburton, Jarrett Allen & more now get to shine in the light of the second season

Stars Showing Out

  • Can Nikola Jokic – who’s having one of the greatest all-time statistical seasons – lead the Nuggets to back-to-back championships?
  • Can Stephen Curry & LeBron James (who just became the 1st player to average at least 25ppg & 8apg on 50% FG & 40% 3PT), lift their squads from Play-In to Playoffs? It’s been 19 years since the Playoffs didn’t feature either of them
  • Can Jalen Brunson’s meteoric rise carry the Knicks to their first Conference Finals (or beyond) since 1999-2000?
  • Can the Suns’ trio of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker & Bradley Beal stay hot and show why Phoenix traded for Beal in June? How about the LA-born quartet of PG, Russ, Harden and Kawhi (who has been out since Mar. 31)?
  • Joel Embiid & the Sixers are undefeated since he returned. Luka & Kyrie have taken their partnership (and the Mavs) to new heights. Giannis is having a season for the ages. AD’s having one of the best seasons of his career. So is Domantas Sabonis. And so many more.


  • Kings/Warriors stages a rematch of last year’s epic, 7-game 1st round series – and a new chapter in a growing rivalry of NorCal clubs
  • Clippers/Mavs meet in the 1st round for the third time in five years since Luka/Kawhi and PG eras began
  • Lakers & Pelicans meet after L.A. just prevented NOLA from clinching the 6th seed, and after an In-Season Tournament showdown earlier this season
  • Wolves/Suns sees Phoenix come in with a 3-0 lead over the Wolves in the season series
  • The Heat & Sixers meet in the Play-In after Miami took down Philly in the 2022 Conference Semis  
  • Bucks/Pacers revive a matchup from the NBA In-Season Tournament semifinals (Pacers lead season series, 4-1)


Steve Kerr: “I think we still have a chance to do something special. Now, obviously, it’s NCAA Tournament, we’ve got to get out of the first weekend here, win the first two and get to the first round, but we have a shot, so we’re excited about that.”

Andrew Wiggins: “It’s going to be one of those games we’ve got to leave it all on the floor. … It’s win or go home, no second chances.”

Mike Brown: “We welcome anybody that’s in front of us. Just excited about an opportunity to play, to go play one game right now and swing for the fences and try to get a win. It’s a great opportunity for us to go do it.”

Davion Mitchell (on Play-In matchup with Warriors): “It’s exciting. We get to get our little payback from last year. … It’s gonna be loud, it’s gonna be physical, but I think we’re ready for it.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander: “We all know what got us to this point. Just doubling down on that and keeping our heads down and trusting the work. We got this far for a reason. Just don’t veer off of it.”

OKC coach Mark Daigneault: “Nothing’s guaranteed in any year, so, to be a postseason team, to be a one seed – we don’t take that for granted at all. We’re incredibly excited. And now it’s just a matter of letting it rip with that opportunity.”

Michael Malone: “To tie the franchise record for wins in a season is outstanding, especially on the heels of winning a championship. That’s been the mantra all year long. Not being satisfied.”

Tyrese Maxey: “Our main goal was to be stepping in the right direction come playoff time. I think we’re doing that.”

Franz Wagner: “Most guys here haven’t been in the playoffs. Most have been in 20-win seasons and stuff like that. It means a lot to the whole group.”

Jalen Brunson: “It’s a goal to be the best team we can be by the end of the year, and for us now it’s just move on from that. It’s something to be crossed off and have to get better from here.”

Jimmy Butler (on Sixers Play-In matchup): “We’ve just got to go out there and compete, play basketball the right way and do something very difficult – which is to win on Philly’s floor.”

Tyrese Haliburton: “I’m just really excited. We all grow up watching the playoffs. It’ll be fun. (Milwaukee) is a really good team. We’ve had some battles this year. It’s home for me. Kind of storybook to be playing at the crib my first playoff series.”

Rick Carlisle: “This organization is not an organization just happy to be in the Playoffs. That’s not what this is about. This is not small-market, lowered expectations. We can’t have that.”

Jarrett Allen: “Orlando is a young team and they’re going to be fighting for a lot, so we have to come in with the mentality to throw the first punch. We need to lock in, watch our film and do everything we can to prepare for the playoffs.”