Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

NBA Starting 5, May 2: Luka powers Mavs to 3-2 lead, Celtics move on

Luka Doncic delivers despite being hobbled, the Celtics take down the Heat and a pair of key Game 6s loom tonight.

Starting 5When you got the ball on a string, and a 3-2 series lead.


What’s inside today’s edition?

Luka leads big W: Dallas takes a 3-2 lead on the strength of Doncic’s 35-10 night on the road

Celtics move on: Boston becomes 1st East team to advance, beating Heat 118-84

After Maxey’s miracle: What’s next for the Sixers’ breakout star in Philly-New York Game 6?

Middleton comes through: It’s that time of year again for Khris Middleton

Game 6 stats & top pics: Need to know & need to see


Last night’s scores & what to watch today.

A pair of Game 6s await on TNT tonight, with Bucks-Pacers tipping things off at 6:30 ET in Indiana, as Indy tries to advance and Milwaukee looks to force a Game 7.

Knicks-Sixers follows at 9 ET in Philly, with the hosts trying to avoid elimination and New York trying to punch its ticket to the Conference Semis.


Luka Doncic finishes with 35 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists to lead the Mavericks to a Game 5 win over the LA Clippers.

Playing on the road – through illness and injury – with a chance to break a 2-2 series tie, Luka Doncic took over. The Mavs’ star went for 35 points & 10 dimes to pace a dominant Mavs performance, as Dallas beat LA 123-93 to take a 3-2 lead in the series. | Recap | Luka’s Best

  • 5th Under 25: Doncic became the 5th player 25 or younger to have 20+ career Playoff games of 30 pts or more, joining LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum
  • Unfazed: Luka said he was playing through an illness, in addition to a sprained knee that he’s played through during the series
  • Luka: “You talk about adrenaline in a Playoff game. Once you get started, you want to do everything you can to help your team win. I just wanted to keep going.”
  • Walk Off With Luka: “One more.”

Maxi Kleber (5 3PM), Derrick Jones Jr. (12 pts, 3 blks + this big swat & slam) and Kyrie Irving (14 pts) helped the cause, with Kyrie making magic happen with a highlight-reel finish

  • Kyrie Coast To Coast: When Irving gets in his bag, he can make it look like nobody else can. Like he does on this steal & coast-to-coast And-1
  • LeBron Had Thoughts: “OMG KYRIE!!!!!!!!
  • DJJ:I was undrafted. I went into situations where I wasn’t supposed to be on the roster or playing… I fought my way into a roster spot and I fought my way into the rotation.”

The Mavs held the Clippers to 93 points or fewer for the third time this series, after it happened just three times during the regular season for LA.

  • After LA hit 18 treys in Game 4, Dallas limited them to a 9-for-35 performance from behind the arc on Wednesday
  • Jason Kidd: “I think it was just the carryover from Game 4, talking about it, watching it. Being able to play with pace on offense, but just doing a good job of taking the 3 out of the game.”

Game 6 tips on Friday night in Dallas, 9:30 ET on ESPN.


The 41-point 1st quarter set the tone. The top-seeded Celtics were all business in a 118-84 victory over the Heat in Game 5.

Derrick White starred for the second straight game, putting up 25 – tied for the game-high with Jaylen Brown – as the Celtics beat the Heat 118-84 in Game 5 to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

  • White exploded out of the gates, hitting three treys in the first quarter on the way to 15 points in the opening frame – after drilling 8 threes in Game 4
  • Getting ‘Em Going: White hit the pump fake then flew in for a dunk – and a ‘you can’t see me’ celly – to bring the Boston crowd to its feet. Watch it from inside the arena
  • Rare Company: White became the sixth player in Playoff history to average 20+ pts on 55/45/90 shooting splits (min. 5 games), joining James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Allan Houston and Byron Scott
  • Jayson Tatum on White: “He’s making the right play, shooting the ball extremely well, obviously playing well on defense as he always does.  He’s just in a really good flow and rhythm right now.”

The Celtics never trailed, leading by as many as 37, for the third-largest Playoff win in franchise history.

  • Boston became the first team ever to score 100+ points and hold their opponents under 90 pts in three straight Playoff games in NBA history
  • Said Jaylen Brown: “It is a lot of history, back and forth. But it didn’t matter who it was. We just had to get the job done.”

For the Heat, Bam Adebayo led with 23 pts, as Miami lost before the Eastern Conference Semis for the first time since 2021.

  • Jaquez Out: The Heat rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. sat out due to injury, joining Jimmy Butler and Terry Rozier

Next Up: Boston meets the winner of ORL-CLE, with the Cavs up 3-2 and a chance to advance on Friday (7 ET, ESPN) … but the series heads to Orlando, where the Magic haven’t lost yet in the Playoffs.


Tyrese Maxey drops a playoff career-high 46 points, along with some clutch buckets to save the 76ers in Game 5 and force a Game 6.

Knicks @ Sixers Game 6, 9 ET on TNT | NYK Leads 3-2

“When it’s all said and done, I just want them to say that Tyrese Maxey, he worked extremely hard for what he got. He maximized every ounce of potential that he had. … And he was a winner.” Tyrese Maxey

Tyrese Maxey saved the Sixers’ season, broke the internet and carved his name into NBA Playoffs history with a 7-point, 17-second outburst at MSG in Game 5. Tonight, he and the 76ers look to stay alive and force a Game 7 against one of their biggest rivals. (9 ET, TNT)

‘Rese’s Rise: With the reins to the Sixers offense and after flashes of brilliance in 2022-23, Maxey seemed poised to break out going into 2023-24 (NBA GMs agreed). But what he’s done has vaulted him into a rising class of NBA superstars – and Sixers royalty.

  • Iconic Class: His three 50-point games this season make him one of three Sixers ever to hit that mark. Only Wilt Chamberlain, Allen Iverson and his teammate Joel Embiid have had more in a season
  • Maxey & AI: He joined Iverson as the first 76ers guard to have 25+ ppg in a season, and tied AI as the only Sixers age 23 or under to have 20 30-point games in a season
  • In The Playoffs: Game 5 gave Maxey the 7th 45+ point game in Sixers postseason history, joining Wilt and AI as the only Sixers to average 30+ pts & 7+ ast over a 5-game span in the Playoffs

From Rising Star To Star: Maxey started hot this year, dropping 50 in early November, and earning his first All-Star nod. But another level of training started when he became the focal point of the offense after Embiid missed 2 months due to injury.

  • Said Maxey: “I’ve learned a lot. I went through some things. When he first went out it was hard for me to adjust to the traps and double teams. I wasn’t used to that.
  • “And then I realized when I can attack, when I should attack, when I can get to the paint and pass, how to kind of manipulate the defense.”

The Arrival: Maxey ranked top-20 in the league in NetRtg during the clutch this year, between Jrue Holiday at 19th and Jalen Brunson, who he’ll meet tonight, at 21st (min 25 GP). He’s only come up more clutch in the postseason.

  • In one of the most taut series over the past half-decade, Maxey’s had a 62.5% True Shooting percentage in clutch situations this postseason
  • One & Only: His explosion in Game 5, including 17 points in the fourth, made him the only Sixer ever to go for 46+ pts, 9+ ast in a Playoff game
  • Embiid earlier this year: “That’s our guy in the fourth quarter. We know where the ball’s got to go, we go and go to Tyrese.”

Back in Philly, facing elimination and squaring off with Brunson — one of the league’s elite clutch performers — what’s next? Find out on TNT at 9 ET.


Bucks @ Pacers Game 6, 6:30 ET on TNT | IND Leads 3-2

The Bucks just became the first team in the history of the NBA to win a Playoff game without their top 2 regular-season scorers (Giannis, Dame), staying alive and forcing a Game 6 tonight in Indiana (6:30 ET, TNT).

A big reason why? A Milwaukee mainstay who thrives this time of year: Khris Middleton.

Taking Over: Middleton’s put up 26.8 ppg in the series so far, the highest ppg total (so far) he’s had in a Playoff series in his 12-year career.

  • Hot Streak: His three straight games of 25+ pts and 10+ reb tie Giannis and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the only Bucks to do so in a Playoff series
  • Don’t Forget: Middleton’s desperation 3s tied Game 3 in regulation, then did the same late in OT, before Tyrese Haliburton’s game-winner won it
  • Playoff-High: His 42 in that game set a new Playoff career-high for Middleton, breaking his prior mark of 40 – in Game 4 of the 2021 NBA Finals

Mr. Postseason: Middleton ranks 12th among active players in Playoff ppg (min 75 games) at 20.7 – nearly 4 points a game higher than his regular season average. He’s also earned a reputation as a performer in pressure situations.

  • 40-Point Playoff Games: Only Giannis and Kareem have more 40- and 25-point games in the postseason for Milwaukee than Middleton
  • 3rd In Clutch Points: Going back to the 2020 postseason, Middleton ranks third among all NBA players in total clutch points (75), behind only Jimmy Butler and Nikola Jokic – and ahead of Jamal Murray and Steph Curry
  • His Clutch Buckets: Three years ago, on the way to the Bucks’ title, we cut this montage of some of his all-time great Playoff buckets – with a few ice-cold buckets during that run
  • Brook Lopez: “Everyone who’s been around this team for a long time, we all know who Khris is. He’s so underrated. It’s no surprise to see him go out there and do what he does, but still so impressive to watch.”

With Giannis and Dame listed as doubtful for Game 6 (though ‘very close’ in Doc Rivers’ words), can Milwaukee send the series back home? Or is Indy moving on? Find out at 6:30 on TNT.


First, a few things to know going into tonight’s Game 6s.

  • Teams trailing 3-2 in Game 6 are 101-116 at home (where the Sixers play) and 47-79 on the road (where the Bucks play) in NBA history
  • 13 teams in 268 series have come back from a 3-1 deficit to win a Best of 7 series
  • 35 teams (including those 13) have forced a Game 7 after being down 3-1
  • In Game 7, home teams have won 111 games. Road teams have won 37

Now, with four teams in the Conference Semis (OKC, Boston, Minnesota & Denver) and four spots still to go, spin through a few of the top photos of the first round so far.