Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, May 14: SGA & Thunder rally, Celtics hold on to go up 3-1

Boston took a 3-1 lead in Cleveland, while OKC rallied in Dallas to tie the series 2-2. Plus, a pair of crucial Game 5s tonight.

Starting 5When you were staring at a 3-1 deficit halfway through the 4th … and walk off tied 2-2.


What’s inside today’s edition? 

OKC Rallies, Ties Series: The Thunder outscored the Mavs 28-16 down the stretch to pull even

Boston One Win Away: The Celtics held off the shorthanded Cavs to take a 3-1 series lead

Game 5 at The Garden: The Knicks and Pacers meet in NYC with the series tied 2-2

Road Warriors: Road teams are 4-0 in Nuggets-Wolves – will that trend continue in Game 5?

Larry On Tour: Check in on the Larry O’Brien Trophy after a busy couple weeks on tour


Last night’s scores & what to watch today

Tonight’s TNT Playoff doubleheader features a pair of pivotal Game 5s with each series tied 2-2, beginning with the Knicks hosting the Pacers (8 ET), followed by the Nuggets hosting the Timberwolves (10:30 ET).

The 2024 WNBA Season tips off with an ESPN2 doubleheader featuring No. 1 pick Caitlin Clark (Fever at Sun, 7:30 ET) followed by A’ja Wilson and the Aces raising the banner and collecting their rings before beginning their quest for a three-peat (Mercury at Aces, 10 ET).

Breaking: The Golden State Valkyries just announced their name & logo this morning, with the team starting play in 2025.


OKC follows Shai Gilgeous-Alexander's lead and powers past Dallas for a 100-96 win to forge a 2-2 series tie.

OKC Claws Back Into Series: The Thunder were eight minutes away from a 3-1 series deficit before using a 17-6 run to turn an eight-point deficit into a three-point lead with 3:24 to play.

It was their first lead since 4-2 in the game’s opening minutes. But they never trailed again, holding on for a 100-96 win in Dallas to send the series back to OKC tied at 2-2. | Recap

  • 2nd Half Takeover: OKC won the second half 57-42 as they overcame a 14-point deficit early in the 3rd quarter
  • Been There, Done That: Monday’s win was the 18th by OKC when trailing by double digits – the most of any team this season
  • Who’s Next On That List? The Knicks (17), Bulls (16), Nuggets (16) and Wolves (16)

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 22 of his game-high 34 points in the 2nd half to lead the OKC rally. SGA added eight boards, five dimes, two steals and two blocks in 42 minutes.

  • SGA hit consecutive tough baseline jumpers during the rally, while Jalen Williams (14 pts, 9 reb, 6 ast, 4 stl) delivered in the clutch with a driving dunk and a fastbreak layup off a steal to push OKC’s lead to five with 1:07 left
  • 🗣️ OKC Coach Mark Daigneault on SGA’s Clutch Shooting: “Huge. We needed everything tonight. We needed the stops, we needed the rebounds … that was a tremendous individual performance from a scoring standpoint.”
  • 🗣️ Chet Holmgren on SGA: “There’s some points in the game where I’m just being a fan of what he’s doing … he’s been doing it all year.”
  • Holmgren (18 pts, 9 reb, 4 blk) was part of a Game 4 block party as the Mavs (franchise-record 13) and Thunder (9) combined for 22 blocks – the most in a postseason game since 2016
  • Chet became the 4th rookie in NBA history to record 120+ pts, 60+ reb and 20+ blk in their first eight postseason games, joining Hall of Famers David Robinson, Alonzo Mourning and Tim Duncan

The Mavs were unable to hold home court despite Luka Doncic (18 pts, 12 reb, 10 ast) posting his second triple-double of this postseason while continuing to play through injuries.

  • P.J. Washington (21 pts, 12 reb, 5 3s) posted his third straight game with 20+ points while joining Luka and Dirk as the only Mavs with multiple 20/10/5 Playoff games
  • Kyrie Irving (9 pts, 9 ast) was held below 10 points for only his second time as a Maverick – and both instances have come in the past three games


With a crucial Game 4 in Cleveland, the Boston tandem of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown dismantles the Cavaliers' defense.

One Win Away: Behind a combined 60 points from Jayson Tatum (33 pts, 11 reb, 5 ast) and Jaylen Brown (27 pts, 8 reb, 60% shooting), the Celtics held off the shorthanded Cavs 109-102 to take a 3-1 series lead. | Recap

  • Seen This Before: For the second straight series, the Celtics bounced back from a Game 2 loss at home by sweeping the next two games on the road
  • Seen This Before Too: Tatum and Brown each scored 25+ points for the 2nd straight game and the 15th time as Playoff teammates
  • The Only Boston Duo With More: Larry Bird and Kevin McHale with 17 such games
  • 🗣️ Tatum:  “Nothing better than winning a playoff game on the road … Now it’s time to go back and play well in front of our fans and give them something to cheer for.”

Jrue Holiday stuffed the stat sheet with 16 pts, 7 reb, 5 ast, 4 3s, 3 stl and 1 blk in 43 minutes.

  • 🗣️ Brown on Holiday and Derrick White: “They are our X-factors. I think when they’re playing well…it makes us extremely tough to beat.”

With Donovan Mitchell (Cleveland’s 2024 Playoff leading scorer) on the bench with a calf strain and Lakers forward LeBron James (Cleveland’s all-time Playoff leading scorer) watching from a courtside seat, the Cavs were missing some scoring punch.

  • Darius Garland shook off a scoreless 1st quarter to finish with 30 points, while Caris LeVert and Evan Mobley added 19 apiece
  • The Cavs used a 12-2 run to make it a five point game with 3:14 to play in the 4th, but could get no closer
  • 🗣️ Cavs Coach J.B. Bickerstaff: “They laid it all out there. They gave us everything that they had. They competed at a high level. … I’m proud of the guys, the way they went out and scrapped and competed and gave ourselves a chance.”


A classic rivalry: Knicks vs. Pacers

A classic situation: Game 5, Series Tied 2-2

A classic venue: Madison Square Garden

Tonight at 8 ET on TNT.

The History: Two of the all-time greatest Playoff rivals meet tonight to break a 2-2 tie, the fourth time they’ve done so in 30 years — most of any Eastern Conference teams.

The Stakes: Teams that win Game 5 of a 2-2 best-of-seven series have gone on to win the series 81.9% of the time (190-42).

  • The home team has won every game of this series
  • Home teams that win Game 5 in a 2-2 series, have won the series 87.3% of the time (151-22)
  • 🗣️ Tyrese Haliburton: “We have to understand that at the end of the day, all we did is our job and win two games at home. We understand the magnitude of Game 5 and we’ll be prepared for that.”

The Defense: The difference between the Pacers’ defensive rating in New York (132.4) and Indiana (103.4) was instrumental in tightening the series. After holding NY to its fewest points this postseason (89), will Indy’s defense travel for Game 5?

  • 🗣️ Knicks Coach Tom Thibodeau: “We can’t have a hangover. We’ve got to fix it and we have to come with a will and determination to respond to what happened. … This team has responded all year. So that’s what we’re expecting to do.”

The Rivalry: In the three prior times they were tied 2-2, the Knicks won the 1993-94 ECF in 7 games and the 1998-99 ECF in 6, while the Pacers took the 1999-00 ECF in 6.

  • 1994: Despite magic from Reggie Miller (and an all-time iconic Playoff moment in Game 5) the Knicks held on to win in 7
  • 1999: Allan Houston has one of the defining performances of his Knicks career, dropping 32 pts (on 17 shots!) to lead NY to the Game 6 comeback win
  • 2000: Reggie came up clutch again to lead the Pacers to their first-ever Finals berth. Watch the FULL Game 6 with your NBA ID for free
  • 🗣️ Jalen Brunson: “There’s a lot of history between these two teams. … They’re a great team and the things that they do are different from the past, the things that we do are different from the past. So we’re both just trying to create our own story.”


While home court has held true for Knicks-Pacers, the exact opposite has gone down between the Nuggets and Timberwolves, with the road team winning each of the first four games.

  • The Stakes: Road teams that win Game 5 in a 2-2 series, have gone on to win the series 66.1% of the time (39-20)

After dropping the first two games at home, the Nuggets appeared to be on the ropes. But Denver brought a response in Games 3 and 4 in Minnesota befitting a defending champion.

  • Nikola Jokic was in MVP form: 29.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 8 apg, 3 spg, 2 bpg, 56.8% FG, +16.5
  • Jamal Murray (and his ailing calf) looked much better: 21.5 ppg, 6.5 apg, 2.5 spg, 2.5 3s on 41.7% 3P, including his Game 4 buzzer-beater from 55 feet
  • Aaron Gordon was on another level: 20 ppg on 84.2% (16-19 FG) shooting, with 5.5 apg, 4.5 rpg. The Nuggets are 28-11 when AG scores 15+ points this season, 9-2 when he scores 20+ like he did in Game 4
  • 🗣️ Jokic on AG: “He’s a really big factor for us winning the championship last year and playing this good this year. … Some nights he’s going to score a lot, some nights he’s not going to score at all and he’s good with that. That’s why he’s really good at his job.”
  • 🗣️ Nuggets Coach Michael Malone: “We came up here trying to get two, we got that. We have home court back. We have to go home and protect their home court. We can’t allow them to come in and get a third win at Ball Arena.”

Now, it is the Wolves that have to show their resolve.

  • 🗣️ Mike Conley: “We’re confident in our ability to win in Denver, we’ve done it before obviously. … We’ve got a tough task ahead of us, but we’re by no means not confident in what we can do going forward.”
  • Finding An Answer: The Wolves have yet to lose three straight games all season long. They’ll look to keep that streak alive tonight in Denver


The Larry O’Brien Trophy’s been busy.

Like, busy-busy.

For the past few weeks, the NBA championship trophy’s been making its second straight world tour on the way to the NBA Finals (June 6, ABC) – after going to the Kentucky Derby, hanging with Neymar & the Kelces, and going skydiving last year (to name a few).

This year’s off to an even bigger start. A few highlights:

Go behind the scenes @nbafinalstrophy.