Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, June 5: Media Day today as start of NBA Finals looms

Hear the latest from Boston and Dallas as they discuss their Finals matchup & dig into the X-factors that could shape the series.

Starting 5Happy Finals Eve from Larry and ‘Big Papi’ at Fenway Park.

Who’s ready for a Monster series?!


What’s inside today’s edition? 

Celtics Media Day: Hear the latest from coach Joe Mazzulla and Kristaps Porzingis

Mavs Media Day: Coach Jason Kidd and Luka Doncic discuss the opportunity at hand

Strength vs. strength: Who will control the corner 3s, paint points and offensive boards?

Meet the cast: You know the stars, but how well do you know the potential X-factors?

Mavs’ alley-oops: How the lob has become an essential piece of Dallas’ offense


With 1 day left til the NBA Finals …

The Celtics and Mavs will be in Boston for Media Day, streaming live in the NBA App starting at 12:30 ET.

Game 1 of the NBA Finals presented by YouTube TV tips off tomorrow at 8:30 ET on ABC.


Potential return: Kristaps Porzingis’ status for the Finals after missing the last 10 games with a calf strain has been a talking point all week, and on Tuesday, Boston fans received some encouraging news.

  • 🗣️ Porzingis: “It’s been a long process – I’m not going to lie. It’s been tough to sit out, obviously … But we’re here now, and I’m feeling much better. I’ve put in a lot of hours to get to his point, and I look forward to getting some action on the floor.”
  • 🗣️ Coach Joe Mazzulla: “I think he’s on pace, and he’s doing everything he can to get back, so we’ll see … I expect him to pick right back up where he left off. Obviously, they’ll be a little bit of rust, but (I’m) just not concerned because of the work that he’s put in.”

What it would mean: If Porzingis returns, he’ll not only be stepping onto the NBA Finals court for the first time but also facing his former team, a club he played for from 2019 to 2022.

  • 🗣️ Porzingis on playing the Mavs: “I think it’s going to be great. I played there for 2.5 years, and I’m happy for everybody in Dallas. A lot of great relationships I have there, and I think they deserve to have some success.”
  • 🗣️ Porzingis on the Finals: “It’s incredible. Just the energy – everybody’s buzzing. It’s going to be exciting. Just seeing the amount of people here now, it shows the magnitude of this and what’s on the line … The goal is to finish the job.”
  • By the numbers: Porzingis’ rim protection


Coach vs. player: As point guard of Dallas’ 2011 title team, Jason Kidd has the opportunity to be the eighth coach to lead his team to the title after winning one as a player with the same team. Kidd said he enjoys both roles, but one is clearly more challenging.

  • 🗣️ Kidd:It’s a lot harder to coach. It’s fun, but it’s harder … It’s chess and I love playing chess and understanding to put the guys in a position to be successful on and off the floor.”

Embracing the opportunity: The Mavs got close in 2022 – reaching the Western Conference Finals before being eliminated by Golden State. After missing the 2023 postseason, they’re ready to make the most of the opportunity in front of them.

  • 🗣️ Luka on what he’s looking forward to most: “Just playing in the NBA Finals. Every kid that plays basketball dreams about this so I was one of them.”
  • 🗣️ Kidd: “You have to enjoy it because you’re never guaranteed to be back here. And that’s the same as a player too. After 2011, we felt we could do it again but we never made it back.”

Luka x Dirk relationship: Another connection from 2011 is Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who won a title with Kidd 13 years ago and played one season with Luka before retiring.

  • 🗣️ Luka:I wish I could have played with him more, but his last season, my first was amazing just to experience. He helped me a lot, especially coming into the NBA not knowing what to expect, what kind of player I’m going to be.”
  • 🗣️ Kidd on what Doncic could learn from Nowitzki’s title run:Patience … Trusting that you’ve done all the hard work.”

Where They Belong: After becoming the first team in 14 years to knock off three straight 50+ win teams to reach the Finals, the Mavs are ready for the Finals stage.

  • 🗣️ Luka: “It’s very hard. I don’t think people understand how hard it is to win games in this league, especially in the Playoffs, so I think we earned the right to be here. We deserve that because every game we played in the Playoffs was really hard to win.”


Similar Styles: Star duos, clutch poise and 3-point happy offenses aren’t the only qualities Dallas and Boston have in common.

Both teams excel in specific facets that will clash and help decide the Finals champion.

Beyond The Box Score: We’ve already covered the basics. Now, it’s time to dive deeper and examine three “strength vs. strength” team matchups to watch this series.

1. Corner 3 Control

  • The Mavs are hitting a Playoff-high 4.6 corner 3s per game, and 34% of their 3-point attempts have come from the corners, the second-highest rate this postseason
  • P.J. Washington leads all players with 28 corner 3s this postseason – five shy of Bruce Bowen’s Playoff record of 33 in 2007 – and Derrick Jones Jr. is tied for the second-most with 17
  • The Celtics, meanwhile, have allowed 18% of their opponents’ 3s to come from the corners, the lowest percentage among Playoff teams

2. Points In The Paint

  • Boston has only taken 42% of its shots from inside the paint this postseason – the lowest among all teams – but ranks first in field goal percentage (63.2%) from that area
  • Dallas has held its opponents to just 51.1% shooting in the paint this postseason, the third-lowest opponent percentage
  • Jaylen Brown is shooting 65.1% (97-149) in the paint, a Playoff-high among the 16 players with 100+ paint attempts
  • Daniel Gafford has forced opponents to 45.2% (38-84) shooting at the rim, a Playoff-best among the 17 players who’ve defended 50+ shots at the cup

3. Mavs OREB vs. Celtics DREB

  • Dallas ranks fourth this postseason in both offensive rebound percentage (31%) and 2nd-chance points per game (13.4)
  • Boston ranks second in defensive rebounding percentage (77.0%) and has allowed the fewest 2nd-chance points (8.3 per game) of any Playoff team over the last seven years

See more key stats ahead of the NBA Finals here.


You know about Kyrie and Luka.

You know about Tatum and Brown.

But what about their teammates? Check out one stat about the potential X-factors in this year’s Finals …


  • P.J. Washington: Leads the postseason in corner 3s made (1.6 per game), attempted (4.0 per game) and he’s converting them at a 41.2% clip
  • Derrick Jones Jr: Leads all Mavs in pace (98.33) this postseason (min. 30 min/g) and has the second-highest effective FG% (57.3) among starters
  • Daniel Gafford: In addition to his elite rim protection, Gafford led the NBA in field goal percentage in the regular season (72.5)
  • Dereck Lively II: Leads the Playoffs in FG% as the ‘roll man’ in pick & rolls (72.0) and his +6.8 plus/minus is the second-best for a rookie in Playoff history, trailing only Manu Ginobili in 2003
  • Josh Green: Has the best assist/turnover ratio on the Mavs in these Playoffs at 2.86 (min. 15 min/g)
  • Maxi Kleber: Has held opponents to 29.4% (20-68) shooting, with an expected FG% of 49.0 – the second-largest differential among the 106 players who’ve defended 50+ shots in the Playoffs
  • Tim Hardaway Jr: Is one of two players – along with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – to shoot at least 50% on pull-up 3s this postseason (min. 10 games and 1 3PA/G)
  • Jaden Hardy: In only 6.9 minutes per game this postseason, Hardy has the second-highest usage percentage on the Mavs (27.1%)


  • Jrue Holiday: Has the second-best +/- in the Playoffs (+9.5) behind only Jayson Tatum and ranks second in catch-and-shoot 3P% (48.4) among the 45 players with 25+ attempts
  • Derrick White: Ranks third in catch-and-shoot 3P% (47.4) among the 45 players with 25+ attempts
  • Al Horford: At age 38, Horford is older than Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla (35) and shot 62.5% (15-24) from 3 in the 2022 Finals
  • Kristaps Porzingis: One of three centers (Lauri Markkanen, Victor Wembanyama) with at least five 3PA from above the break, in which he’s shot 38.5%
  • Payton Pritchard: Has shot 45.5% (20-44) from 3 in the Playoffs, the second-best mark among the 72 players with 25+ attempts
  • Sam Hauser: Shooting 42.4% from 3 this season, and when he shoots above 42%, the Celtics are 37-11 (regular season and Playoffs combined)
  • Luke Kornet: Led the Cs with 118 offensive rebounds in the regular season, leading to 125 Celtics points – the 16th-most among all NBA players


In addition to Luka’s stepbacks, Kyrie’s ambidextrous runners and drive and kicks for open 3s, the Mavs are also the most prolific alley-oop team of the postseason.

And it’s not even close.

The Mavs have completed 57 alley-oops in their run to the Finals – 15 more than the next four teams combined. Those four: Denver (12), Boston (11), OKC (10) and Indy (9).

The additions of Daniel Gafford and P.J. Washington at the trade deadline correlates with a spike in alley-oops for Dallas that has only grown in the postseason.


Let’s break down how the lob has become an essential piece of Dallas’ offense.

1. Transition Lobs: Luka Doncic is constantly looking for alley-oop opportunities in transition, sometimes launching lobs from beyond half-court, like this one to Dereck Lively II.

2. Isolation Lobs: Kyrie Irving uses his once-in-a-generation handles to get by defenders and force opposing bigs to step up to stop his drive, leaving a Mavs dunker in position to catch a lob over the defense.

Luka operates a bit differently, often getting his defender on his hip as he gets into the paint and forces help to come his way to free up his alley-oop partner.

3. Pick-and-Roll Lobs: Luka and Kyrie have so many options off pick-and-roll action depending on what the defense gives them. If the priority is to stop Luka and Kyrie, they’ll find the roll man like Gafford, for example, with a clear path to the basket.

4. Pick-and-Roll Variations: Watch the Mavs use multiple screens in Luka-Gafford pick-and roll action.

In this example, Gafford set a high screen for Luka near mid-court. Then, Derrick Jones, Jr. sets a back screen on Gafford’s defender to get both players a clear path to the paint. The defense collapses late on Luka, who simply lobs it up to Gafford.

Here, after setting a screen on Luka’s defender, Gafford rolls to the basket and sets a screen on his own defender as Luka snakes the lane, eventually leading to another lob.

5. Ball and Player Movement: With Luka and Kyrie surveying the floor, quick ball movement that gets the defense scrambling can result in an alley-oop opportunity.

So can a well-timed cut to the basket like Washington’s below.