Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, May 15: Nikola Jokic, Jalen Brunson deliver epic Game 5s

Jokic, Brunson carried their respective teams to 3-2 leads, more Game 5s tonight and a look at opening night of the WNBA season.

Starting 5When you walk off one win away from a return trip to the Conference Finals …


What’s inside today’s edition? 

Joker Goes Off: Nikola Jokic (40 pts, 13 ast, 0 tov) has Denver one win from the West Finals

So Does Brunson: Jalen Brunson’s 5th 40+ point game of the Playoffs has New York up 3-2

Boston Three Party: The Celtics can reach their 3rd straight East Finals with a win at home

Pivotal Game 5 in OKC: The Thunder and Mavs look to seize control of the series tonight

WNBA Season Opens: Caitlin Clark made her debut, while the Aces raised the banner and got a W


Last night’s scores & what to watch today.

Two More Game 5s Tonight on TNT: The Celtics look to close out the Cavs in Boston (7 ET), then it’s the 2-2 tiebreaker game between the Mavs and Thunder in OKC (9:30 ET).


Nikola Jokic goes for 40 points, 7 rebounds and 13 assists as the Nuggets take a 3-2 series lead on the Wolves.

Joker’s Masterpiece: On the night he was presented with the Michael Jordan Trophy for his third MVP in four years, Nikola Jokic put together a game never seen in NBA Playoffs history – 40 points, 13 assists, 0 turnovers – to lead Denver to a 112-97 win and a 3-2 series lead. | Recap

  • Jokic, Nuggets Take Over In 3Q: Jokic dropped 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting in the 3rd quarter as the Nuggets outscored the Wolves 38-30 to build a double-digit lead that they’d never relinquish
  • 🗣️ Wolves Coach Chris Finch on Jokic: “He had an MVP, best player in the world performance.”
  • 🗣️ Ant Edwards on Jokic: “I just laugh. That’s all I can do. I can’t be mad. He’s good, man. … He’s the best player in the NBA. He showed it the last three games, three games in a row. He was special tonight. I’ve got to give him his flowers.”
  • 🗣️ Joker’s Got Jokes on His Recent Dunks: I’m a freak of nature … why not show my athleticism.”

Spreading the Wealth: Jokic’s 13 dimes went to six different Nuggets: Christian Braun and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope led with three apiece; Aaron Gordon, Reggie Jackson and Jamal Murray each received two; and Michael Porter Jr. had one.

  • Gordon followed up his 27 points on 11-of-12 shooting Game 4 with an 18-point, 10-board and five-dime effort in Game 5, while Murray and KCP added 16 each
  • Nuggets Win 3rd Straight: After dropping the first two games at home, Denver has won three straight to move within one win of a return trip to the West Finals

Uncharted Territory: The Wolves – who got a combined 41 points from Karl-Anthony Towns (23 pts, 6 reb) and Edwards (18 pts, 9 ast) – suffered their first three-game losing streak of the season.

  • Edwards has two 40+ point games in this series, but was held below 20 points for the 2nd time over the past three games
  • What’s Next? The Wolves return home with their season on the line in Game 6 on Thursday


From hesitation moves to post ups, Knicks star Jalen Brunson digs deep into his bag of tricks to drop 44 points on Indiana.

Knicks One Win Away: Jalen Brunson (44 pts, 7 ast) posted his 5th 40+ point game of the Playoffs to lead the Knicks to a 121-91 win over the Pacers to break a 2-2 series tie and put the Knicks on the precipice from their first Conference Finals trip since 2000. | Recap

  • Legendary Company: Brunson became the 4th player to have at least five games with 40+ pts and 5+ ast in a single postseason, joining Jerry West (1965), LeBron James (2018) and Michael Jordan (1989 and 1990)
  • Swishing & Dishing: Brunson scored (44) or assisted (18) on 62 of NY’s 121 points. It’s the 4th time he’s been responsible for 60+ points – the most by a Knick in the play-by-play era (since 1997-98)
  • Fast Start: Brunson scored 10 in the 1st quarter and 18 in the 2nd as the Knicks built a 15-point lead. Brunson’s 28 1st half points are the most in a half by a Knick in the play-by-play era

Turning Tables: After the Pacers posted their 3rd-largest win since in Playoff history in Game 4 (+32), the Knicks put up their 4th-largest in Playoff history (and largest since 1992) as they finished +30 on Tuesday.

Board Team Gets Win: Isaiah Hartenstein corralled 12 offensive rebounds as the Knicks dominated the offensive glass 20-5 for a 27-9 advantage in 2nd-chance points.

  • Hartenstein’s dozen o-boards tied Charles Oakley (May 15, 1994) for the most by a Knick since offensive rebounds began being tracked in 1973-74
  • Hartenstein finished with seven points and 17 boards, while Josh Hart posted his 4th double-double of the series (18 pts, 11 reb) and 7th of the Playoffs (tied-2nd in NBA)
  • Donte DiVincenzo was limited to eight points as he battled foul trouble, but did provide one of the biggest highlights of the night

Pascal Siakam led the Pacers with 22 points, while Tyrese Haliburton was limited to 13 points and five assists in the loss.

  • Indiana attempted only 72 shots – their fewest in any game between the regular season (previous low 78) or Playoffs (previous low 81) as the Knicks dictated the pace of play

What’s Next? The teams get two days off before Game 6 on Friday in Indiana as the Knicks look to close and the Pacers try to stay alive.


The Celtics can punch their third straight ticket to the East Finals with a win tonight in Boston — but to get there, they’ll have to go through one of the deepest teams in the league, on a floor where they’ve taken two losses these Playoffs.

  • A win tonight would mark the first time the Celtics have reached three consecutive Conference Finals since making five straight from 1984-1988
  • The Cs are also seeking their third consecutive win and their first Playoff series victory against the Cavs since 2010, after three straight losses in 2015, ‘17 and ‘18

Jayson Tatum & Jaylen Brown have an 11-8 record together in potential series-clinching games, with respective averages of 24.6 and 18.4 points per game — both less than a point off from their career Playoff averages (23.8 ppg and 18.7 ppg).

  • Tatum can join Larry Bird (1985, First Round) as the only Celtics to score 30+ points in three straight wins to close out a series. JT is coming off back-to-back 33-point games
  • Brown is also heating up, as he’s shooting 61.2% from the floor and 44.4% from 3 while tallying 26.5 points per game this series

The Cavaliers, on the other hand, will look to grab their 2nd win of the series at TD Garden, where the Celtics are 3-2 this postseason after going an NBA-best 37-4 during the regular season.

  • Donovan Mitchell’s status for tonight is uncertain after missing Game 4 with a calf strain, and Jarrett Allen is in jeopardy of missing his 8th straight game with a bruised rib
  • But Cleveland Still Has Scorers: The Cavs have had 10 different players lead the team in scoring in a game this season, which trails only the Pacers (13) among active Playoff teams
  • Darius Garland dropped 30 in Game 4 — the most points he’s scored all postseason — while Evan Mobley and Caris LeVert scored 19 apiece on a combined 54% (17-31) shooting
  • No Quit In BelieveLand: “We just have to fight through all of this,” said Garland after Game 4. “It’s not going our way but just keep fighting. That’s what we always do.”


Thunder Strike: On the road, trailing by 14 in the 2nd half, and staring at a 3-1 deficit, OKC’s young core answered the bell with a series-altering rally to head back to OKC tied at 2-2.

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 22 points in the 2nd half and his supporting cast came through in crunch time (outscoring the Mavs 18-10) to swipe a dub from Dallas
  • Comeback Kings: OKC now has a league-high 18 double-digit comeback wins this season
  • Clutch Time: The Thunder have the second-best offensive rating in the clutch this postseason (124.1), which — you guessed it — trails only the Mavs (127.1)

OKC’s Game 4 win sets up tonight’s pivotal Game 5 (9:30 ET, TNT).

  • The Stakes: The winner of Game 5 in a best-of-seven tied 2-2 has gone on to win the series 81.9% of the time (190-42)

OKC’s Offensive Adjustments: Although the Mavs have out-shot the Thunder from deep (53-43 edge in 3s) and scored more points in the paint (42.0 ppg to OKC’s 40.5), OKC has found ways to keep pace.

  • Midrange SGA: Shai, who led all guards in points in the paint (14.3 ppg) this season, took what Dallas gave him in Game 4, shooting 10-of-14 from the midrange while scoring just eight points inside
  • Holding The Line: The Thunder have shot 85.2% (75-88) from the free-throw line this series compared to the Mavs’ 63.9% (62-97)
  • OKC is shooting 90.9% from the stripe in the clutch, the 2nd-highest clutch percentage among teams remaining in the Playoffs

Dallas Duo Looks To Break Out: Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving have yet to turn in a trademark performance as a tandem this series, with OKC keyed on slowing one of the NBA’s most dynamic duos.

  • Luka & Kyrie haven’t combined for 50 points in a game this series after doing so a league-high 41 times in the regular season and four times in the First Round
  • Doncic vs. Dort: When matched up against one another, Lu Dort has held Doncic to 45.5% from the field and 30.8% from 3 while forcing seven turnovers to just 12 assists
  • Irving’s had three 30+ games this postseason, but has been held to just nine points in two of Dallas’ last three games
  • Doncic has been battling through injuries but spoke with confidence heading into Game 5: “Obviously, it’s gonna be hard on the road. But we’ve done it before. We can do it again.”


The 28th WNBA season is officially underway as last year’s champs — the Las Vegas Aces – raised their banner and this year’s No. 1 overall pick – Caitlin Clark – made her professional debut. | Dive Into the GM Survey

  • Clark Scores 20 In WNBA Debut: The rookie phenom scored a team-high 20 points with four 3s, but the Connecticut Sun spoiled her debut with a 92-71 win behind Alyssa Thomas’ triple-double (13 pts, 13 ast, 10 reb) – extending her own WNBA record to 12 (regular season and Playoffs)
  • NY Doubles Up On Ws: Both the Knicks and the Liberty got a win, with the Liberty beating the Mystics 85-80 in Game 1 of the season 

Aces Raise Banner, Begin 3-Peat Quest: After raising their 2nd banner and trying on their latest championship rings, the Aces began the 2024 season the same way they ended 2023 – with a win led by A’ja Wilson.

  • The two-time MVP had 30 points, 13 rebounds and five assists to lead the Aces past the Mercury, 89-80

Lynx Weather New-Look Storm: Minnesota got a combined 42 points from Napheesa Collier (20 pts, 12 reb) and Alanna Smith (22 pts, 8 reb) in the Lynx’s 83-70 win to spoil the Storm debuts of Nneka Ogwumike and Skylar Diggins-Smith.