Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, April 25: Here come the Heat

Miami evens its series with Boston, while OKC rolls to a 2-0 lead over New Orleans. Plus, a trio of pivotal Game 3s tonight.

Starting 5

When it’s all tied up heading to South Beach.


What’s inside today’s edition? 

Heat bounce back: Miami flipped the script on Boston, sinking 23 treys to even the series 1-1

Thunder roll: OKC found its offense and a 2-0 lead after putting up 124 points on NOLA

What does a 2-0 lead mean? Dive into the numbers and history when a team goes up 2-0 in a best-of-7

Donte’s new peak: Go inside DiVincenzo’s rise from role player to breakout star in NYC

Clutch champs: Jamal Murray’s game-winner on Monday was the latest of many clutch moments for Denver


Last night’s scores & what to watch today.

Three pivotal Game 3s: Get started with Cavs-Magic (7 ET) on NBA TV, followed by Knicks-Sixers (7:30 ET) to tip off a TNT doubleheader, then close the night with Nuggets-Lakers (10 ET)

Chasing History: To get ready for tonight’s Game 3s, relive Monday’s epic TNT doubleheader on the latest episode of Chasing History

Award announcement: The second-ever Kia Clutch Player of the Year will be announced tonight (7 ET) on TNT


After dropping Game 1, Miami makes a handful of adjustments that give it a key road victory over the top-seeded Celtics.

Heat bounce back: After Boston finished Game 1 with a 22-12 edge in 3-pointers made, the Heat flipped the script and outshot the Celtics 23-12 from deep in a 111-101 win to even the series at 1-1 as it shifts to Miami for the next two games. | Recap

  • Heat on fire from 3: Tyler Herro (24 pts, career-high 14 ast) made a Playoff career-high six 3s, Caleb Martin added five more, while Jaime Jaquez Jr., Nikola Jovic and Haywood Highsmith added three 3s apiece as Miami finished with a Playoff franchise-record 23 treys
  • Jimmy’s text: Sidelined with a knee injury, Jimmy Butler texted Herro before the series, telling the fifth-year guard to “Take the team and lead these guys”
  • Chess master: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra improved to 10-3 in Game 2s following a Game 1 loss as Miami avoided an 0-2 deficit. See why that’s important in Section 3 ⬇️

  • Two Jays not enough: Jaylen Brown (33 pts, 8 reb, 4 3s) and Jayson Tatum (28 pts, 8 reb, 3 ast) combined for 61 points. The rest of the Celtics combined for just 40 points in the loss
  • Said Coach Spo: “It was a very good response. And then we also made some shots. It always looks better when you make shots.”
  • Said Tatum: “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. There’s a lot of history between these two franchises, especially recently. … It’s never going to go exactly as people expect it to go and that’s the beauty of it.”


Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was in his bag Wednesday, dropping a game-high 33 points (13-19 FGs) in OKC's 124-92 win over the Pelicans.

OKC offense gets going: The Thunder won Game 1 despite scoring just 94 points – their second-lowest scoring game of the season. Game 2 looked more like the Thunder we’ve seen all season, as they racked up 124 points in a 124-92 win over the Pelicans for their first 2-0 series lead since 2013. | Recap

  • SGA & Chet show: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Playoff career-high 33 pts, 5 ast) and Chet Holmgren (26 pts, 7 reb, 2 blk) combined for 59 points to lead OKC to the win
  • Hitting from all angles: Check out this smooth step-back jumper by SGA from behind the backboard … stick around for his lean to the side to see it fall through the net

  • Holmgren history: Chet scored 20 of his 26 in the 1st half – the most points by a Thunder rookie ever and the first rookie to score 20+ in a playoff 1st half since Brandon Jennings in 2010
  • SGA on Chet’s toughness: “The year he got drafted… we played some pickup… I knew Chet had that fire in him.”
  • Even the fans get buckets: OKC shot 59% from the field and 48.3% from 3, but one fan went 1-for-1 from halfcourt to win $20k


When all three Game 3s tip tonight, they’ll come with similar stakes: three teams, winless in the first two on the road, looking to feed off their home crowd to change the energy in their series.

  • Cavs at Magic (7 ET, NBA TV) – Cleveland leads 2-0
  • Knicks at Sixers (7:30 ET, TNT) – New York leads 2-0
  • Nuggets at Lakers (10 ET, TNT) – Denver leads 2-0

So, what does a 2-0 series lead really mean? For one, it’s a critical chance for the trailing team to change the series’ course at home — then tie things up before it shifts locations again.

  • 2-0 lead: Teams that win the first two games of a Best of 7 series have gone to win the series 92.1% (314-27) of the time and 92.5% (270-22) when those first two wins come at home
  • Change of scenery: Since 1984, lower seeded teams have gone 122-95 in Game 3 on their home courts when down 2-0 in a Best of 7
  • What wins mean: In that time, winning Game 3 makes lower seeded teams 15-107 (12%) in all series. Winning Game 4 too makes them 28-85 (25%)

Recent Rallies: 6 of the 27 teams to have stormed back to win a best-of-seven series after going down 0-2 did so in the past three years.

  • 2023 Warriors: Defeated Kings 4-3 (First Round)
  • 2022 Mavs: Defeated Suns 4-3 (West Semis)
  • 2021 Bucks: Defeated Suns 4-2 (NBA Finals)
  • 2021 Clippers: Defeated Jazz 4-2 (West Semis)
  • 2021 Bucks: Defeated Nets 4-3 (East Semis)
  • 2021 Clippers: Defeated Mavs 4-3 (First Round)

What needs to be done

  • LeBron James: “Protect home. That’s where my mindset goes. And obviously, the only game that matters now is Game 3 and how we can get better, how we can figure this team out. So, Game 3 is where my mindset is.”
  • Paolo Banchero: “It’s not just gonna happen [because we’re home]. We gotta be locked in and game plan the right way, find the confidence, hopefully the fans and being at home will give us that.”
  • Tyrese Maxey After Philly’s Game 2 Loss: “Got to put it behind us now. You’ve got 48 hours to think about it and come up with a plan to get two at home.”


Knicks-Sixers Game 3, 7:30 ET on TNT

Five months before Donte DiVincenzo hit one of the biggest – and loudest – Playoff 3’s in the history of Madison Square Garden, he found himself fighting for minutes on his fourth team in four years.

Going into Game 3 in Philly, with New York up 2-0 in the series and DiVincenzo as one of the breakout players of the season’s second half, all that has changed. Dramatically.

  • Knicks lore: DiVincenzo’s deep, game-winning trey with :13 left in Game 2 was only the second go-ahead 3 that late in the game in Knicks history. The prior came from Allan Houston against the Heat in OT on May 12, 2000
  • The ‘Double-Bang’: As the Garden went nuts, Donte’s bucket got one of the rarest live calls in the business, courtesy of Mike Breen. These are the others
  • Said DiVincenzo: “It was huge. It was loud as hell in there.”

His rise: DiVincenzo’s gone from a bench player getting 20 mpg and scoring 8.5 ppg through November, to getting 38 mins and dropping 20+ ppg since February, setting the Knicks record for single-season 3s and landing a spot as a folk hero in New York City.

  • Finding his fit: A champ with Milwaukee, the team that drafted him, DiVincenzo had his 2020-21 with the Bucks and 2021-22 with Sacramento cut short due to injuries, then played a bench role for Golden State last year
  • This year, the Knicks are 40-23 with him in the starting lineup – and 10-9 as a reserve

Everywhere he’s gone, he’s impressed.

  • Said Jalen Brunson, who played with DiVincenzo at Villanova: “He has a confidence in himself he’s had since the day I met him. I’m not surprised.”
  • Jrue Holiday in 2020-21: “He’s a guy you love playing with, and you always want to play with him.”
  • Steph Curry in 2022-23: “Even in our struggles all year, he’s been a bright spot.”

Standing in the spotlight: On a team that’s fought through injury after injury this year – including a season-ending one for 3-time All-Star Julius Randle – DiVincenzo and fellow ‘Nova teammate Josh Hart have led a crew of rotation players into, at varying points, starring roles.

  • Bench goals: The Knicks have a 58-17 edge in bench points across both wins, a 41-point edge through 2 games that’s only happened in six of the last 75 Playoff series before this year
  • Spreading it around: Seven Knicks have scored 9.5+ ppg so far through two games
  • Can Philly counter? Just 3 Sixers have crossed the 9.5 ppg mark this series: Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey and Kyle Lowry


Nuggets-Lakers, Game 3, 10 ET on TNT

When Austin Reaves’ 3-pointer put the Lakers up 20 with 10 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, the Nuggets were reeling.

  • Their offense was struggling – scoring just 48 points on 36.7% shooting (26.1% from 3), with Jamal Murray ice cold (6 pts on 3-11 FG) and Nikola Jokic with only three assists
  • Their defense was too – allowing 68 points on 57.8% shooting (60% from 3), with Anthony Davis rolling (30 pts on 13-14 FG) and LeBron James with 10 dimes
  • But there wasn’t a sense of panic. Michael Malone told his team: “I don’t have a 20-point play. You’ve got to just keep chipping away.”

They methodically cut the deficit in half by the end of the 3rd, and kept inching closer and closer to get the game into clutch time.

  • Both the Lakers (24-9, 1st in NBA) and Nuggets (26-14, 3rd in NBA) have excelled in clutch situations over the course of the regular season, but Denver had a 2-0 edge in their two games that included clutch time this season
  • Jokic finished fourth in clutch points (129 pts on 55.3% shooting) and rebounds (44), 10th in clutch assists (20) and fifth in clutch plus/minus (+85 in 122 minutes over 36 games)
  • Murray added 60 clutch points on 57.1% shooting while appearing in 25 clutch games. He was a +78 in 77 minutes

With two elite and efficient clutch scorers, the Nuggets are a nightmare for opposing teams to stop in crunch time. Trailing by six with five minutes to play, Jokic (7) and Murray (8) combined to score 15 of Denver’s final 18 points in Game 2.

They’ve been doing this for a while now.

  • Over the past two regular seasons, the Nuggets have outscored their opponents by a league-high 125 points in 277 clutch minutes. Denver’s 17.4 net rating in the clutch was 4.7 points better than any other team
  • Since the 2020 NBA Playoffs, the Nuggets have shot 50.3% from the field, 46.3% from 3 and 81.6% on free throws in the clutch. They are the only team to shoot at least 50/45/80 during that stretch

The Lakers now face the daunting task of beating the Nuggets four times over the next five games, while Denver has won 10 games in a row against L.A.

  • Said LeBron: “A 20-point lead in this league, it’s not safe, especially against the defending champion. We’ve got to do better. But we had our chances.”

Their next chance is tonight in Los Angeles.