Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, April 17: Lakers move on; Kings, Pelicans to meet

The first games of the postseason are in the books as the Lakers clinch, the Warriors go home, and the Kings and Pels meet Friday.

Starting 5

Wink if you just earned a rematch with the defending champs this weekend…


What’s inside today’s edition? 

What We Know: Who’s in, who’s out and what’s next in the SoFi NBA Play-In Tournament

Lakers Take 7th: The Lakers beat the Pelicans for the 2nd time in 3 days to secure the 7th seed

Kings Oust Dubs: Sacramento’s season continues as sophs Keegan Murray & Keon Ellis shine in must-win

Sixers-Heat: The Joel Embiid vs. Bam Adebayo matchup takes center stage in this 7 vs. 8 Play-In

Bulls-Hawks: Two of the top closers – DeMar DeRozan & Trae Young – meet in a win-or-go-home game


Yesterday’s scores & what to watch today.

The SoFi NBA Play-In Tournament shifts to the East with an ESPN doubleheader with Heat-Sixers at 7 ET and Hawks-Bulls at 9:30 ET.


The second season is officially underway after Tuesday’s SoFi NBA Play-In Tournament doubleheader out West.

The stakes have been raised: The Lakers are back in the Playoffs. The Warriors’ season is over. And the Kings and Pelicans have a date on Friday night.

  • Lakers Earn 7th Seed: On Sunday, L.A. won in New Orleans to drop the Pelicans into the Play-In and set up a rematch for the 7th seed. Two days later, the Lakers beat them again to clinch a Playoff berth and put the Pelicans’ season on the line
  • What’s Next For L.A.? Another rematch … this time against the defending champion Nuggets as the teams run back last year’s West Finals in the First Round, beginning Saturday in Denver (8:30 ET, ABC)
  • The Nuggets have won eight straight games against the Lakers, including last year’s Playoff sweep

  • Kings Stay Alive: The Kings entered Tuesday’s game with an 0-6 record in winner-take-all games since arriving in Sacramento in 1985, with the most recent instance being Game 7 against Golden State in last year’s First Round. That record now stands at 1-6 as the Kings raced past the Warriors
  • What’s Next For Sac? Another chance to get a first win … of the season, that is, against the Pelicans. The Pels swept the five-game regular-season series, including ousting the Kings in the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals. The teams meet Friday in New Orleans (9:30 ET, TNT)

  • Can Pelicans Rally? New Orleans had won four straight (all on the road) before the loss to L.A. to close the regular season. Now they’ll look to avoid a three-game slide (all at home) to try to keep their season alive
  • Zion Williamson’s status is unclear after he left Tuesday’s game with a leg injury with three minutes left after dropping 40 points
  • How Dubs Got Here: Golden State went 10-2 to close the regular season to give themselves another chance at a Playoff run
  • With the loss, No. 10 seeds drop to 0-6 all-time in the Play-In, and the Warriors head to the offseason as they miss the Playoffs for the 3rd time in 12 years


LeBron James finishes with 23 points, 9 assists and 9 rebounds as the Lakers snag the 7th seed after defeating the Pelicans.

Lakers survive Zion, Pelicans rally: The Lakers got 20-point games from LeBron (23 pts, 9 reb, 9 ast), D’Angelo Russell (21 pts, 5 3s) and Anthony Davis (20 pts, 15 reb, 3 blk) to outlast the Pelicans 110-106 to clinch the No. 7 seed and a first-round matchup with the No. 2 Nuggets. | Recap | Watch the thrilling final four minutes

  • Lakers take control: L.A. used a 32-8 run – including a pair of coast-to-coasts from LeBron – to turn a 10-point deficit into a 14-point lead in the 1st half. The Lakers extended the lead to 18 midway through the 3rd, before the Pelicans responded
  • Pelicans fight back: New Orleans used a 12-4 run to close the 3rd, before using a 13-2 run in the 4th fueled by Zion (7 pts, 3-3 FG) and Jose Alvardo (3 pts, 3 ast) to tie the game at 93 with 3:53 to play on a Jose to Zion alley-oop as the NOLA crowd erupted

Zion Williamson exits the Pelicans' matchup with the Lakers in the SoFi Play-In Tournament after a 4th-quarter left leg injury.


Keegan Murray goes for 32 points as he leads the Kings past the Warriors to keep them alive in the Play-In Tournament.

Kings avoid elimination: 353 days after the Warriors ended the Kings’ season with a Game 7 win in the First Round of the 2023 Playoffs, the Kings flipped the script to end the Warriors’ season with a 118-94 win in the 9 vs. 10 game of the SoFi NBA Play-In Tournament. | Recap

  • Murray leads the way: Keegan Murray caught fire early (3-of-3 from 3 in the game’s first 3:09) on his way to game-highs of 32 points and eight 3s
  • Kings’ balance: All five Kings starters had 15+ points, with De’Aaron Fox (24 pts, 6 ast, 2 stl) and Domantas Sabonis (16 pts, 12 reb, 7 ast, 1 emphatic slam and 1 beam lit) combining for 40

  • Keon Ellis does it all: Inserted into the starting lineup after injuries to Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk, Ellis stuffed the stat sheet (15 pts, 4 reb, 5 ast, 3 stl, 3 blk and 3 3s) and took the lead assignment of defending Steph Curry
  • 🗣️ Mike Brown: “Keon Ellis, the confidence he has, and the swag he brings to this team, for a young guy that was on a two-way in February, it’s unbelievable”
  • All eyes on Steph: After Curry dropped 50 in the last win-or-go-home game between these teams last April, the Kings collectively held him to 22 points on 16 shots (including a four-point play), blitzing him with double teams all night
  • Young Dubs step up: Jonathan Kuminga (16 pts, 7 reb), Moses Moody (16 pts, 2 3s) and Brandon Podziemski (5 pts, 8 reb) combined for 37 points off the bench


Will Joel Embiid be able to play? That’s a question that has hung over the 2nd half of the Sixers’ season ever since the reigning MVP had knee surgery on Feb. 6.

He returned to the lineup on April 2 in the 2nd game of an 8-game win streak to close the regular season and lift the Sixers to 7th place, allowing them to host tonight’s Play-In game against Miami (7 ET, ESPN)

  • Embiid is listed as questionable on the Sixers’ injury report, but coach Nick Nurse said he expects Embiid to play after participating in Monday’s practice
  • Just how important is having Embiid in the lineup? The Sixers went 31-8 with him and 16-27 without him this season

How do you counter one of the most prolific big man scorers the game has ever seen? Enter Bam Adebayo, who is one of the league’s most athletic and versatile defenders, anchoring Miami’s 5th-ranked defense. Best of Embiid and Adebayo this season

When these teams last met in the postseason in 2022, the Heat defeated the Sixers 4-2 in the East Semifinals with Embiid missing the 1st two games.

  • In four head-to-head matchups in that series, Bam held Embiid to 28 total points on 38% shooting from the field (including 0-5 on 3s), while forcing four turnovers, blocking two shots and committing only four shooting fouls (for six FTs) in 28:26 of matchup time
  • Embiid has had the advantage in the matchup since that series. In 18:57 of matchup time over the past three games, Embiid has scored 40 points on 54.8% shooting (including 3-6 on 3s). Bam has still forced four turnovers and allowed only four free throws

Who will get the better of the matchup tonight? That answer will go a long way to determine which team locks up the 7th seed and which team is headed for a single-elimination game for the 8th seed on Friday.


Who do you want with the ball in their hands with the game on the line?

Clutch stats help us answer that question, showing how players perform in close games (within five points) in crunch time (final five minutes of 4th or OT).

When it comes to a 9 vs. 10 Play-In game – where the loser’s season is over and the winner advances to face a second straight elimination game – the entire night can feel like clutch time.

Tonight’s Bulls vs. Hawks matchup (9:30 ET, ESPN) features two proven closers – Chicago’s DeMar DeRozan and Atlanta’s Trae Young.

  • 4th Quarter: Young (7.5, 4th) and DeRozan (7.3, T-5th) both rank in the top five in 4th quarter points per game
  • Clutch Time: DeRozan (182, 2nd) and Young (107, 8th) both rank in the top 10 in total clutch points this season
  • Clutch Highlights: DeRozan’s most clutch performance this season … Ice Trae’s most clutch buckets of his career

Both players elevate their play late in games despite playing heavy minutes. DeRozan led the NBA in minutes played (37.8 mpg) in his 15th season, while Young (36 mpg) ranked 9th in his 6th season.

  • At age 34, DeRozan is the oldest player to ever lead the NBA in minutes played

With the season on the line, expect big minutes and big plays from DeRozan and Young tonight.

But only one will be able to do it again on Friday.