Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

NBA Starting 5, Dec. 7: Stage is set (+ fresh Luka magic)

Today: Four teams. Two Games. One In-Season Tournament championship game on the line.

Good morning from Vegas! ☀️

Today, four teams battle in the first-ever In-Season Tournament Semifinals, with a spot in Saturday’s championship game on the line.

Bucks-Pacers at 5 ET. Lakers-Pelicans at 9.

Who’s your pick to lift the NBA Cup?


  1. 👀  Must-see from Wednesday
  2. 🔥  East Semifinal: Battle of Unbeatens
  3. 💥  West Semifinal: Ingram, AD Meet
  4. ✨  Luka’s First Half Magic
  5. 🐺  Wolves Best Start Ever

📺  Bucks-Pacers: 5 ET, ESPN

📺  Lakers-Pelicans, 9 ET, TNT/TruTV

🎥  Race for the Cup: Episode 7

🏆  Tournament Live Tracker



  • Luka’s Historic Half: Doncic recorded the highest-scoring first-half triple-double in NBA history with 29 points, 10 boards and 10 dimes in the first half
  • More Luka: He joins Nikola Jokic (2x), Russell Westbrook (2x), Domantas Sabonis and Jason Kidd as the only players to ever complete a triple-double in a half
  • Wait, There’s More: With his 60th triple-double, Luka broke a tie with Larry Bird for ninth place all-time. He also tied Wilt Chamberlain for the fourth-most 40-10-10 games ever with seven.
  • Luka’s not even 25 yet. More on his night here
  • Feeling Better: Joel Embiid dropped 50, coming back with authority after missing the past two games due to illness, and finished the night by giving his game jersey to his dad
  • Never Better: The Wolves are off to their best start through 20 games in franchise history (16-4). Celebrate with Anthony Edwards adding ANOTHER big slam to his mixtape
  • I See Your 3, Raise You A Game-Winner: Trae Young put the Hawks up with a 3, but Mikal Bridges answered with the game-winning bucket for Brooklyn for the 43rd and final lead change



🏆 (1) Bucks vs. (2) Pacers
Preview | 5 ET, ESPN
🏀 MIL 15-6 (5-0), IND 11-8 (5-0)

Tyrese Haliburton plays like he’s out to prove he belongs every time he steps on the court.

I was a no-star in high school,” the Pacers’ fourth-year guard said Wednesday in Vegas. “I use everything that I can to give me a bit of an edge.”

  • Haliburton, one of the breakout stars of 2023-24, has never played in the NBA Playoffs. So the inaugural In-Season Tournament has been his first taste of elevated competition and high-stakes games.
  • He’s responded quite well.

So have the rest of the Pacers (5-0 in Tournament), who enter the Semifinals against a Bucks team (also 5-0) loaded with high-stakes experienced players

  • Different Roads: The Bucks have won an NBA title (2021) since the Pacers have last made the playoffs (2020).
  • Upstarts vs. East Elite: This clash of a team on the rise in Indiana (and their supernova in Haliburton) against one of the East’s established title contenders should make for great drama to tip off the action in Vegas.

  • Like offense? This is your game: The Pacers (133.6 ppg) and Bucks (129.6) rank 1-2 in points per game during the In-Season Tournament
  • Shooting the lights out: Milwaukee leads the entire tournament in 3-pointers made (17.4 per game) and 3-point percentage (46.3%)
  • The Pacers are just behind that, well, pace: Indy ranks second in both 3PM (17.0 per game) and 3P% (44.5%)
  • Milwaukee’s duo: The Dame-Giannis duo is the top scoring tandem in the semifinals (57.0 combined ppg)
  • Indy’s balance: The Pacers counter with six players averaging between 12.5 ppg and 19 ppg after Haliburton’s team-high 28 ppg

The win-or-go-home stakes of the Knockouts are a perfect fit for these two squads.

  • All five of Indy’s In-Season Tournament games have featured clutch time (score within five points in the final five minutes). They have outscored teams by 30 points in 16 clutch minutes with a ridiculous 91.6% true shooting percentage
  • Clutch time is known as Dame Time for a reason. Lillard leads all players with 27 points in the clutch during the tournament

Remember, Dame was out when the Pacers beat the Bucks on Nov. 9. Giannis put up an NBA season-high 54, but it was not enough to hold off a combined 76 from Haliburton, Bennedict Mathurin and Myles Turner.


🏆 (1) Lakers vs. (3) Pelicans
Preview | 9 ET, TNT
🏀 LAL 13-9 (5-0), NOP 12-10 (4-1)

On July 6, 2019, the Lakers and Pelicans made it official. Anthony Davis was a Los Angeles Laker as that move helped the Lakers win title No. 17 in 2020.

Brandon Ingram – the No. 2 pick in the 2016 Draft and a promising young wing – was at the center of the haul New Orleans got back in the trade.

1,616 days after that trade, the two teams will meet with a berth in the In-Season Tournament Championship on the line.

  • BI vs. LA: In 12 games against his former squad, Ingram has averaged 25.5 points per game – his highest mark against any opponent for his career by nearly 3 ppg
  • Biggest Game Yet: As important as that first return game is, none of the first dozen meetings between Ingram and the Lakers match Thursday’s stakes

  • Ready for the stage: “This is another time for us to go out here and show who we are. We’re not on TV a lot, so we get to go out here and have a little fun when the lights are on” – said Ingram
  • “He’s going to be ready”: Charles Barkley can’t wait to see how Ingram performs against his former squad
  • Don’t Forget About AD: In 10 games against the Pelicans, Davis has averaged 27.9 ppg (his third-highest average against any team) and 11.6 boards
  • Or LeBron Either: The soon-to-be 39-year-old just delivered another blow to Father Time, leading L.A. to the Semifinals


🐴 Mavs 147, Jazz 97

🔔 Sixers 131, Wizards 126

  • Joel Embiid (50 pts, 12 reb, 7 ast) posted the fourth 50-point game of the 2023-24 NBA season and the sixth of his career as the Sixers outlasted the Wizards. Tyrese Maxey added 26 and Kelly Oubre Jr. had 12 in his first game back

🌉 Warriors 110, Blazers 106

Clippers 111, Nuggets 102

  • Paul George scored 25 points, James Harden added 20 and a season-high 11 dimes as the Clippers overcame an early 15-point deficit and Nikola Jokic’s ninth triple-double (22 pts, 15 reb, 10 ast) of the season to snap an eight-game skid to the defending champs

🌃 Nets 114, Hawks 113

  • 43 lead changes. That is the most on record during the play-by-play era (since 1996-97). The final one came on Mikal Bridges’ game-winning jumper with four seconds to play. Watch the final 4:56 of one of the most back-and-forth games ever

🔥 Heat 112, Raptors 103

  • Caleb Martin scored 15 of his season-high 24 points in the first quarter as Miami built a 15-point lead, but trailed by two at the half. After allowing 66 first-half points, Miami allowed just 37 in the second half


🐺 Wolves 102, Spurs 94

  • Rudy Gobert’s big night (16 pts, 20 reb, 2 blk) and a combined 35 points from Mike Conley and Anthony Edwards led Minnesota to its fifth straight win and the franchise’s best start through 20 games (16-4)

🐻 Grizzlies 116, Pistons 102

  • Desmond Bane (49 pts, 8 ast, 6 reb) had a career night to lead Memphis to its third win in the last four games. Bane has eight 30+ point games in 20 games this season, already matching his total from last season

⚔️ Cavs 121, Magic 111

  • Donovan Mitchell (35 pts, 7 reb, 6 ast) led the Cavs to the win despite Paolo Banchero’s career-high 42 points. Paolo joins Shaq and T-Mac as the only Magic players with a 40+ point game at age 21 or younger

🚀 Rockets 110, Thunder 101

  • Dillon Brooks (23), Aaron Holiday (22) and Alperen Sengun (21) combined for 66 points as Houston outlasted OKC despite SGA’s 33 points, six assists and six steals. Check out the halfcourt lob from Fred VanVleet to Jalen Green

🐂 Bulls 111, Hornets 100

  • DeMar DeRozan led the way with 29 points, while Nikola Vucevic (20 pts, 12 reb) and Coby White (18 pts, 9 reb) combined for 38 points as Chicago earned its third straight win