Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, May 17: Wolves. Nuggets. Game 7.

With their season on the line, the Wolves raced past the Nuggets to force Game 7 back in Denver on Sunday.

Starting 5

Hey Ant, what game’s coming on Sunday?


What’s inside today’s edition? 

Wolves Force Game 7: Minnesota left no doubt that its series with Denver would go the distance

Game 6 in 6 GIFs: The must-see plays from Minnesota on both ends of the court

Brunson’s Historic Run: How Jalen Brunson’s style has ‘painted’ his name into Playoff record books

‘Next Man Up’ vs. ‘Sixth Man’: The Knicks and Pacers meet tonight for Game 6 in Indy

First Look: Three things to watch in Saturday’s Mavs-Thunder Game 6


Last night’s scores & what to watch today.

The Pacers host the Knicks (8:30 ET, ESPN) trying to keep their season alive and force Game 7, while New York tries to book its first trip to the East Finals since 2000.


Anthony Edwards scores 27 points and Minnesota staves off elimination with a flawless 115-70 win over Denver in Game 6.

The first 3 minutes of Game 6 looked a lot like the previous three games with Denver up 9-2 and forcing Minnesota to take a timeout to regroup.

The next 45 minutes of Game 6 turned into one of the greatest win-or-go-home performances in NBA Playoff history as the Wolves dismantled the Nuggets for a 115-70 win. | Recap

  • The Wolves responded to Denver’s 9-2 start with a 20-0 run over the next five-plus minutes. The run expanded to 29-5 to close the first quarter. Watch it Uncut
  • The Wolves added a 24-0 run in the 4th to become the first team to go on two separate 20-0 runs in a Playoff game in the play-by-play era (since 1997-98)
  • Minnesota led by as many as 50 and finished with the 8th-largest postseason win in NBA history (+45) and the 2nd-largest Game 6 win ever (+54 by Chicago in 2015)
  • Minnesota’s 45-point win is the 2nd-largest when facing elimination in Playoff history, trailing only the 58-point win by the Minneapolis Lakers over the St. Louis Hawks in 1956

Fueled by Anthony Edwards (27 pts, 4 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl, 4 3s) and the type of defense that helped Minnesota take a 2-0 lead in Denver, the Wolves will head back to the Mile High City for Game 7.

  • The Wolves outscored the Nuggets by 43 points in Edwards’ 34 minutes on court. It is the largest plus/minus of the 2024 Playoffs and the 7th-largest of the play-by-play era
  • The 22-Year-Old Leader: Edwards commanded his team to “Keep your foot on the gas” during a timeout, making sure the Wolves didn’t surrender another big lead
  • Jaden McDaniels entered Game 6 averaging 7 ppg in the series, but dropped 21 with three 3s to complement Edwards

Minnesota’s defense held Denver to its lowest-scoring Playoff game in franchise history (previous low was 76 points in 2005) and the lowest-scoring Playoff game in the NBA since 2016.

  • Denver’s 30.2% shooting was its lowest in Playoff history and the 8th-lowest in any game in franchise history
  • The Wolves forced 12 turnovers, turning them into 19 points
  • Nikola Jokic (33 pts, 9.3 reb and 9.7 ast in the previous three games), was held to 22 pts, 9 reb and a season-low-tying 2 ast

What’s Next? Game 7 — “the two greatest words in sports,” in Mike Malone’s words — on Sunday in Denver (time TBD).


Minnesota dominated both ends of the court on Thursday and we’ve got the GIFs to show how. Let’s begin with the offense:

KAT with the drive, the slam and the mean mug as he gave the Wolves the lead for good (11-9) with 6:49 left in the 1st quarter

A hesi, drive and two-handed flush like this usually elicits a celebration. But Edwards was all business as the Wolves extended their lead in the 3rd quarter

Ant with the step-back 3 early in the 4th for his final points of the night with Minnesota in full control

The Wolves’ top-ranked defense looked vulnerable the past three games, but was back on full display in Game 6.

Defense to offense: A relentless Jaden McDaniels fought over Jokic’s screen to get back to Jamal Murray in time for the block – leading directly to an Ant 3 to keep the 1st quarter run rolling

How do you limit the Joker to two assists? Mike Conley swatting away a Christian Braun layup after a Jokic dime helped

The Chasedown: McDaniels finished with half of Minnesota’s four blocks as he swallowed up this Justin Holiday layup attempt


What Jalen Brunson has done this postseason — 41+ mpg, 33+ ppg, 7+ apg through 11 games — has only been accomplished by three players:

  • Michael Jordan (1989)
  • LeBron James (2018, 2009)
  • Devin Booker (2023)

But in other ways, what the 6-foot-2 Brunson has accomplished hasn’t been seen by anyone in at least a quarter-century.

The Fire Inside: At times during these Playoffs, Brunson’s looked unstoppable, getting into the paint at will – no matter what defenses throw at him. Especially in the clutch. And at his position, that puts him in a class of one. Ever.

  • Paint Production: Brunson ranks 1st among guards in points in the paint per game (14.7) during a single Playoff run, dating back to when the stat was first tracked in 1996-97 (min. 6 games)
  • Getting 2 The Hoop: Brunson leads these Playoffs with 112 2-point field goals made, four more than the next closest player (Jokic, 108)
  • Dicing Double Teams: Brunson has drawn 30 double teams against the Pacers, and the Knicks have averaged 1.23 points on those possessions, above their 1.18 Playoff average
  • 🗣️ Brunson: “I’m obviously not the fastest or strongest. I can’t jump the highest. But I’m relentless… I always have a plan.

Brunson leads the NBA with 33.9 points per game this postseason, joining some of the biggest names in team and league history as he’s done it.

  • With his 44 points on Tuesday, Brunson joined Jerry West, MJ, and LeBron as the only players in NBA history to record 5+ games with 40+ points and 5+ assists in a single postseason
  • With 27 points tonight, Brunson would become the fifth Knick to score 400+ points in a postseason, joining Patrick Ewing, Willis Reed, Bernard King and Latrell Sprewell
  • His 373 points are the 15th most all-time through the first 11 games of a postseason and the most since Kevin Durant in 2019 (376)
  • Trivia! In Game 5, Brunson became the 5th Knick to record 10 or more career 30+ point Playoff games, can you list the other four?

Brunson also leads the Playoffs in usage rate (36.4), with his impact only increasing when it matters most — peaking at a Playoffs-high 48% in the clutch. (min 3 GP).

🗣️ Tom Thibodeau on Brunson to the media: “You talk about him a lot, and rightfully so — but it’s not enough… His play has been spectacular.”


On The Verge: With a 3-2 lead over Indy, the Knicks find themselves on the doorstep of their first East Finals appearance since 2000.

But to get there, they won’t just need to beat an all-time Playoff rival. They’ll need to do it in a place where Indiana’s gone a perfect 5-0 this postseason, has already beaten the Knicks twice this series and host tonight’s Game 6 (8:30 ET, ESPN).

Ready To Clash: In a series that’s seen the Knicks embrace their ‘next man up’ mentality and the Pacers feed off one of the loudest home crowds in the league, two forces collide.

  • 🗣️ Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle: ”It’s going to be hard. This is a different circumstance and as a playoff series progresses, it’s going to get harder and harder.”
  • 🗣️ Brunson: “I expect my teammates to be ready to go and I expect them to be ready for Game 6 to fire up their crowd… two teams that are going to be ready to play.”

Although shorthanded, NY’s supporting cast is rising to the occasion.

  • Josh Hart didn’t sub out a single time in Games 1 and 2, and leads all players in the second round with 12.0 boards per game
  • Isaiah Hartenstein leads all players in the second round with 4.4 offensive rebounds per game
  • Donte DiVincenzo is shooting 60.0% from 3 in the clutch this postseason
  • Deuce McBride started his first career Playoff game Tuesday and logged 40 minutes while scoring 17 points

While the Knicks refuse to let up, the Pacers refuse to go down in Indy.

The home team has won every game this series, so although NY has handled business at MSG, it’s been a different story at tonight’s venue.

  • The Pacers have held New York to 40.2% shooting in Indy this series while limiting Brunson to 22 ppg, including just 18 points in a 121-89 rout in Game 4
  • Not a single remaining team is shooting better on their home floor this postseason than Indiana, who is hitting 50.2% of their shots at Gainbridge Fieldhouse

Tyrese Haliburton was held to just nine shots and 13 points in Indy’s Game 5 loss but will look to emulate his response in Game 2, which saw him drop 34 points after being limited to six points on six shots in Game 1.

  • The Pacers are 7-7 this season when Haliburton takes 10 or less field goal attempts, including a 1-3 record this postseason
  • 🗣️ Hali: “I just got to do a better job of being aggressive. I said the same thing after Game 1… So, you know, I’ll fix that next game.”


1. Two Days Off: After the first five games of the series were played every other day, the teams get an extra day ahead of Saturday’s critical Game 6.

  • One extra day of rest and treatment for Luka Doncic, who has been battling injuries all series long
  • One extra day of strategizing for Coach of the Year Mark Daigneault and the Thunder as they play to keep their season alive

Both teams are 2-0 this postseason with two days off between games.

  • Dallas: 112 ppg on 49.7% shooting with an average margin of victory of 20.5 ppg, compared to 104.1 ppg on 44.5% shooting in all other games
  • OKC: 115 ppg on 53.4% shooting (47.7% from 3) with an average victory margin of 26.5 ppg, compared to 101.6 ppg, 43.6% shooting overall and 32.1% from 3

2. Backs Against the Wall: After sweeping the Pelicans in the opening round, Saturday will be our first look at this OKC squad in survival mode.

  • Most of this roster (outside of rookies Chet Holmgren and Cason Wallace), last faced elimination in the 2023 Play-In Tournament. OKC won its first elimination game, but dropped its second to fall short of a Playoff berth
  • 🗣️ SGA: “It’ll be fun. Our mood won’t change, our mentality won’t change. It’s one game at a time. We wanted to win this [Game 5] as bad as we’re gonna want to win the next game and the next game”

3. Can Mavs Stay Loose? Coming off a tough Game 4 loss, Dallas focused on building “positive vibes” going into Game 5.

In their highest-stakes game of the season – Game 5, the Mavs played free, throwing lobs left and right — one from ¾ court.

  • The Result: Their largest win (+12) and 2nd-best offensive rating (116.9) of the series
  • 🗣️ Doncic on Game 5: “The whole team stepped up. I couldn’t do it without my teammates. Everybody that came on the floor gave 100% energy…”
  • He continued: “This team is special. We’ve only been together for what, five months? I’ve been having a lot of fun with this team.”