Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, April 22: A home sweep to open the Playoffs

Home teams went 8-0 in this weekend’s Game 1s for the first time since 2013 with big games from Lillard, Harden, Tatum and SGA.

Starting 5

New home. Same Dame.

Lillard’s record-breaking half led the Bucks to the home win.

It was part of a home sweep this weekend as the home teams went 8-0 in Game 1 of Round 1 for the first time since 2013.


What’s inside today’s edition? 

Lillard, Harden debut: Dame made history in his first Playoff game as a Buck, while the Beard shined in LA

OKC wins thriller: Chet Holmgren and SGA deliver in the final minute as OKC escaped NOLA’s upset bid

Triple-double tatum: JT posted his first career Playoff triple-double to lead Boston past rival Miami

Monday’s Game 2s: The Cavs, Knicks and Nuggets try to hold home court again to take 2-0 series leads

Awards finalists: See the finalists for MVP, Rookie of the Year and five more Kia Performance Awards


Yesterday’s scores & what to watch today

Monday’s trio of Game 2s: A 3-game night begins on NBA TV with Game 2 of Cavs-Magic (7 ET) and features a TNT doubleheader with Knicks-Sixers (7:30 ET) and Nuggets-Lakers (10 ET).


Damian Lillard scores all of his 35 points in the 1st half, including 19 in the opening quarter, as Milwaukee cruises.

Dame’s record-setting half: In his Playoff debut with the Bucks and first Playoff game since 2021, Damian Lillard erupted for a franchise-record 35 points in the 1st half as Milwaukee built a 69-42 lead.

Dame went scoreless in the 2nd half, but the Bucks still cruised to a 109-94 win over the Pacers without Giannis Antetokounmpo. | Recap

  • One of three: Dame joined Kevin Durant (38 in 1st half on April 26, 2019) and Steve Nash (35 in 2nd half on May 15, 2005) as the only players to score 35+ in a half of a Playoff game since 1997-98
  • Dame on returning to the playoffs: “Last year, I went to Coachella. I ain’t never been able to go to Coachella. … Just having that long summer, it was like, man, I was over that.”
  • Pair of double-doubles: Khris Middleton (23 pts, 10 reb) and Bobby Portis (15 pts, 11 reb) combined for 38 points to complement Dame’s 35 and offset Pascal Siakam’s Playoff career-high 36 points in his Pacers Playoff debut
  • Slowing the Pacers: The Bucks held the Pacers to a season-low 94 points – only the second time the NBA’s highest-scoring team (123.3 ppg) scored fewer than 100 points this season

James Harden dominated with 28 points and 8 assists as the Clippers take Game 1 over the Mavericks.

Harden lifts Clippers: In his Clippers Playoff debut, James Harden put up 28 points, eight assists and six 3s to lead the Clippers to a 109-97 win over the Mavs.

Paul George (22 pts, 4 3s) and Ivica Zubac (Playoff career-high 20 pts, 15 reb) combined to add 42 as LA overcame Kawhi’s absence. | Recap

  • LA dominates first half: The Clippers led 56-30 at the half after holding the Mavs to just eight points in the 2nd quarter. Harden (nine points) outscored Dallas by himself in the quarter
  • Most points in six weeks: Harden posted his highest-scoring game since March 4 (29 vs. Milwaukee), with the league’s 20th all-time leading scorer more focused on playmaking since joining LA early in the season
  • Dallas duo not enough: Luka Doncic (33) and Kyrie Irving (31) combined for 64 points in the loss as the Mavs had only one other double-digit scorer (P.J. Washington with 11)
  • Moving up: Harden (3,665) passed Scottie Pippen and Dirk Nowitzki to reach 17th on the all-time Playoff scoring list. PG (262) passed Robert Horry for 15th in Playoff 3s


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder deliver a disciplined performance in Game 1 victory over the Pelicans.

Thunder outlast Pelicans: On the five-year anniversary of their last Playoff game in OKC, the Thunder survived a 4th quarter run by New Orleans to escape with a 94-92 win thanks to clutch plays by their young stars. | Recap

NOLA used an 18-6 run to erase OKC’s 10-point 4th quarter lead and take a two-point advantage with 3:34 to play, setting up a dramatic finish.

Clutch candidate: On the same night he was named a finalist for the Kia Clutch Player of the Year, SGA scored five of his game-high 28 points in the game’s final 96 seconds

Block party: Holmgren (15 pts, 11 reb, 5 blk) joined Myles Turner (2016), David Robinson (1990), Manute Bol (1986) and Sam Bowie (1985) as the only rookies to block at least five shots in their Playoff debut

Coach Mark Daigneault on the OKC atmosphere: “That was a true homecourt advantage.”


Boston complements Jayson Tatum's triple-double with 22 3-pointers in its series-opening rout of Miami.

Celtics waste no time: Playing at home, where they’ve gone 37-4 this year – and paced by Jayson Tatum’s first career Playoff triple-double – the Boston Celtics roared out to a 14-0 start over the rival Miami Heat and rolled to a 114-94 Game 1 win.

Eight Celtics combined to drain 22 treys, at a 44.9% clip from deep, as Boston became the first team in Playoff history to have every single player who played hit a trey. | Recap

  • Doing it all: Tatum (23 pts, 10 reb, 10 ast) impacted the game in every dimension, despite having an off shooting game (38.9% FG, 1-8 on 3s)
  • Said Tatum: “It’s supposed to be tough. In the Playoffs no game is easy. There’s no guaranteed wins regardless of time and score, how much time is left. … We just had to respond and we did that.”
  • Fastest start … ever? Add more history for these Celtics. Since the start of the play-by-play era (1997-98), no team has started their Playoff opener on a 14-0 run or better
  • Said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra: “Boston controlled this game from the tip. They won the big muscle areas. Definitely won the 3-point line and the majority of the areas in between.”
  • Bam Adebayo (24 pts, 6 reb) and Jaime Jaquez Jr. (16 pts, 4 ast) combined for 40 for the Heat, who fell to 2-17 when being held under 100 points this season


Lakers-Nuggets | 10 ET, TNT | Nuggets Lead 1-0

  • Can Denver extend its streak? The Nuggets have won nine straight over the Lakers (regular season and playoffs) dating back to Jan. 9, 2023. Denver has won by an average of 8.7 points, while four of the wins have come by eight points or less
  • Said LeBron: “I don’t ever get into the ‘here we go again’ mindset. One game, they protected their home court. We have another opportunity on Monday to come back and be better.”
  • Who steps up for the Lakers? Anthony Davis (32) and LeBron James (27) combined for 59 in L.A’s 103-114 loss on Saturday. The next two leading scorers? Austin Reaves and D’Angelo Russell at 13 points apiece for a combined 26 pts, nearly eight points lower than their regular season output (33.9 combined ppg)

Sixers-Knicks | 7:30 ET, TNT | Knicks Lead 1-0

  • All eyes on Embiid: After leaving Game 1 briefly at the end of the first half before returning for the second, Embiid is listed as questionable for Game 2 (knee). Philly suffered its first loss in eight games since Embiid returned to the lineup on April 2
  • Knicks bench encore? New York got 42 points from the bench trio of Deuce McBride, Bojan Bogdanovic and Mitchell Robinson in Game 1 – nearly 14 points higher than NY’s bench average during the regular season (28.4 ppg, 27th in NBA)
  • On the run: The Knicks outscored the Sixers 27-11 in fast break points in Game 1, as New York nearly doubled its regular season average (14.7 ppg), while holding Philly below their usual mark (15.8 ppg, 5th in NBA)

Magic-Cavs | 7 ET, NBA TV | Cavs Lead 1-0

  • Mitchell back to form: In his first four games back from a broken nose, Donovan Mitchell averaged 14.8 ppg on 34.5% shooting (24.1% from 3). Over the next three games (final two of the regular season and the Playoff opener), he’s more than doubled his scoring to 30.7 ppg on 49.2% shooting (42.9% from 3)
  • Magic look for improved shooting: Orlando produced its worst shooting game of the season as Game 1 saw the Magic shoot just 32.6% and 21.6% from 3
  • Orlando shot 46.7% (15th in NBA) during the regular season. When shooting above that mark, they went 35-11 compared to 12-24 when held below it. Said Banchero: “Just shots weren’t falling, but I thought we got good looks. We missed a lot of free throws and didn’t make 3s.”


The NBA revealed the three finalists for the seven awards that honor top performers in the 2023-24 season on Sunday. TNT will reveal the winner of each award during its coverage of the 2024 NBA Playoffs, beginning tomorrow.

Kia NBA Most Valuable Player

Kia NBA Defensive Player of the Year

  • Finalists: Bam Adebayo (Heat), Rudy Gobert (Timberwolves), Victor Wembanyama (Spurs)
  • Need To Know: Wembanyama led all players in blocks (3.6 per game), Gobert led in defensive win shares (12.5), Adebayo ranked fifth in defensive FG percentage (44.1% allowed)

Kia NBA Most Improved Player

  • Finalists: Tyrese Maxey (76ers), Alperen Sengun (Rockets), Coby White (Bulls)
  • Need To Know: Click each player above to view his year-over-year stats. White made the biggest increase in points per game (+9.4), followed by Sengun (+6.3) and Maxey (+5.6)

Kia NBA Rookie of the Year

Kia NBA Sixth Man of the Year

  • Finalists: Malik Monk (Kings), Bobby Portis (Bucks), Naz Reid (Timberwolves)
  • Need To Know: All three finalists ranked in the top 10 in scoring off the bench: Monk (15.4, 2nd), Portis (13.5, 7th) and Reid (12.6, 9th)

Kia NBA Clutch Player of the Year

NBA Coach of the Year

  • Finalists: Mark Daigneault (Thunder), Chris Finch (Timberwolves), Jamahl Mosley (Magic)
  • Need To Know: Each coach led their team to a double-digit win improvement: OKC (+17), Minnesota (+14) and Orlando (+13)