Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, April 13: An Unprecedented Finale Is Coming

An unprecedented tie at the top of the Western Conference - and even more Playoff implications - in today's Starting 5.

Starting 5

It all comes down to this.

One day. 15 games.

15 seeds yet to be determined.

In 78 years of the NBA, we’ve never seen a regular-season finale like the one coming Sunday.

LeBron James


THE LINEUP 🏀

What’s inside today’s edition? 

West 3-Way Tie: A first-ever 3-team tie for 1st heading into Game 82

East 3-Way Tie: 3 teams tied (and 1 lurking), vying for the final two guaranteed playoff spots

Lakers Break 3-Way Tie: L.A. makes a big jump, rising to the top half of the West Play-In field

Playoff Picture: Only 5 of the 20 seeds in the postseason are locked

Sunday Finale: It all comes down to Sunday’s 15 games as all 30 teams close the regular season


BUT FIRST … ⏰

Last night’s scores & what to watch today.

Friday's Scores

No games today, giving you plenty of time to prep for Sunday’s historic, 15-game regular-season finale on ESPN & the NBA App — with all games tipping off at 1 or 3:30 ET.


1. A 3-WAY TIE AT THE TOP OF THE WEST

West Top 3

Minnesota, Oklahoma City and Denver will each enter the final day of the regular season at 56-25.

  • 1st Time Ever: This marks the 1st time in NBA history that three teams, through 81 games, all have the same record and a chance to capture the No. 1 seed in their conference
  • Fantastic Finish: The Thunder, Wolves and Nuggets have traded 1st place in the West 16 times over the past 44 days. It’s fitting that all three have a shot at the top spot on the final day of the season
    Denver entered Friday with a one-game cushion in the standings and the lowest opponent win % over the final two games.

But a wild rally in San Antonio set the wheels in motion for this unprecedented scenario … with all three teams playing at 3:30 ET on Sunday.

Victor Wembanyama

Spurs Rally, Stun Nuggets: Trailing by 17 with 10 minutes to play, the Spurs outscored the Nuggets 31-13 the rest of the way, including a game-ending 11-2 run capped off by Devonte’ Graham’s game-winning floater with 0.9 seconds left.

The loss dropped Denver into 3rd in the West via tiebreakers. | Recap

  • Leading The Club: Victor Wembanyama (34 pts, 12 reb, 5 ast, 5 3s, 2 blk) posted his 2nd game with 30+ points, 10+ rebounds, 5+ assists and 5+ 3s. There have only been three other instances by a rookie in NBA history (Steph Curry, Paul Pierce and Jason Kidd)

 

Rudy Gobert

Wolves Edge Out Hawks: Rudy Gobert posted a statline only achieved by Wilt Chamberlain (6x) and Dikembe Mutombo as he finished with 25 points and 19 rebounds while shooting 10-of-10 from the field. He added five blocks, while Anthony Edwards had 14 points and four assists in Minnesota’s 109-106 win. | Recap

  • Elite Company: Ant became the 4th player in NBA history with 2,000+ points, 400+ rebounds and 400+ assists in a season under the age of 23, joining LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson
  • KAT is Back: Karl-Anthony Towns (11 pts, 8 ast, 28 min) returned after missing 18 games following knee surgery

Jalen Williams

OKC Back On Top: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (23 pts, 7 reb) and Chet Holmgren (22 pts, 9 reb, 3 blk) led the Thunder to a 125-107 win over the shorthanded Bucks (no Giannis or Dame). The win lifted the Thunder back to 1st place in the West for the 1st time since April 1. | Recap


2. A 3-WAY TIE IN EAST FOR FINAL 2 PLAYOFF SPOTS

Joel Embiid

Why do Top-6 seeds matter? They represent the guaranteed Playoff (not Play-In) spots … and the Magic, Pacers & 76ers are all tied up in a hunt for 5th & 6th, with the Heat 1 game behind.

  • Sixers Win 7th Straight: The city of Philadelphia held its collective breath when Joel Embiid went to the locker room late in the 2nd quarter. But he returned for the 2nd half to finish with 32 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists to lead the Sixers to a 125-113 win over the Magic. | Recap
  • Youth Leads Heat: Sophomore Nikola Jovic (22 pts, 5 reb, 4 3s) and rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr. (20 pts, career-high 9 ast) led the Heat to a 125-103 win over the Raptors to keep their hopes of climbing out of the Play-In alive. | Recap
  • Cavs Clinch Playoff Spot: Donovan Mitchell (33 pts, 5 ast) and Jarrett Allen (29 pts, 13 reb, 13-14 FG) combined for 62 points, while Darius Garland’s clutch 3 with 50 seconds left helped seal the 129-120 win over the Pacers to clinch a top four finish for the Cavs. | Recap

OG Anunoby

Knicks Win 4th Straight: Jalen Brunson scored 10 of his 30 points in the 4th as the Knicks held off the Nets to sweep the NYC series 4-0. The Knicks also got 16 points from Josh Hart and 15 apiece from OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson to help offset Cam Thomas’ game-high 41. | Recap

Celtics Cruise Past Charlotte: Payton Pritchard scored a career-high 31 points and added 11 assists to lead the Celtics (playing without their usual starting five) to a 131-98 win over the Hornets. | Recap

  • Most Points Ever: Boston set a team record for most total points (9,755) in a season, breaking the mark of 9,687 from 1961-62
  • 2nd Most 3s Ever: Boston hit 14 3s to reach 1,335 for the season, passing the 2018-19 Rockets (1,323) and trailing only the 2022-23 Warriors (1,363)

Bulls Edge Wizards: Javonte Green scored a game-high 24 points and rookie Adama Sanogo (22 pts, 20 reb) shattered his career-highs to lead the short-handed Bulls (no DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic or Alex Caruso) over the Wizards 129-127. | Recap

Kenneth Lofton Jr

Jazz Hold Off Clippers: Kenneth Lofton Jr. posted season-highs of 27 points and nine rebounds, along with a career-high eight assists, to lead the Jazz to a 110-109 win over the Clippers. Bones Hyland led LA with 20 points off the bench. | Recap

Rockets Roll In Portland: Jalen Green (26 pts, 9 reb, 5 3s) and Amen Thompson (17 pts, 15 reb) led the Rockets to a 116-107 win as Houston took control in the 2nd quarter and never looked back. Scoot Henderson led the Blazers with 30 points and a career-high six 3s in the loss. | Recap


3. LAKERS BREAK 3-WAY TIE IN WEST PLAY-IN

Allen Iverson

Lakers Outlast Grizzlies: LeBron James (37 pts, 9 reb) and Anthony Davis (36 pts, 14 reb) combined for 73 points to lead the Lakers to a 123-120 win over the shorthanded Grizzlies, putting the Lakers a game up on the Kings & Warriors.

After Jake LaRavia put Memphis up one with 1:06 to play, LeBron scored six straight points, including an exclamation point reverse dunk to seal the win. | Recap

  • Free Throw Bronze: LeBron reached 8,384 career free throws made, passing Kobe Bryant for the 3rd most all-time

Suns Surge Past Kings: Trailing by 16 in the 3rd, the Suns rallied past the Kings, closing the game on a 12-4 run, capped by Jusuf Nurkic’s go-ahead FT with 8.7 seconds left. A De’Aaron Fox turnover on Sacramento’s final possession sealed the Suns’ 108-107 win. Phoenix’s big three combined for 69 points led by Kevin Durant’s game-high 28. | Recap

CJ McCollum

Pelicans Shoot Past Warriors: For the 2nd time in as many days, the Pelicans splashed 20+ 3s to beat a Northern California team, hitting 20 against the Warriors in a 114-109 win as the Pelicans try to hold the 6th seed in the West. | Recap

  • 3-Point Duel: CJ McCollum (28 pts, 8 3s) and Trey Murphy (24 pts, 6 3s) led the 3-point barrage as their 14 combined 3s bested 10 from the Splash Bros., led by Steph Curry (33 pts, 7 3s)
  • 3-Point Records: CJ became the 1st Pelican with back-to-back games with 8+ 3s. Curry reached 357 3s for the season, the 2nd most of his career and 3rd most ever

Homecoming Win: Detroit rookie and Dallas native Marcus Sasser had 24 points to lead the Pistons to a 107-89 win over the Mavs in Dallas on Friday. Jaden Hardy had a season-high 25 points to lead the shorthanded Mavs, who were without Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. | Recap


4. PLAYOFF PICTURE: ONLY 5 OF 20 SEEDS LOCKED

Standings

Western Conference

  • ⬆️ Oklahoma City: Rises from 3rd to 1st via tiebreakers over (2) Minnesota and (3) Denver
  • ↔️ Minnesota: Remains 2nd via tiebreakers with (1) OKC and (3) Denver
  • ⬇️ Denver: Drops from 1st to 3rd via tiebreakers against (1) OKC and (2) Minnesota
  • 🔒↔️ LA Clippers: Locked into 4th with Mavs’ loss, one game up on (5) Dallas with Clippers holding tiebreaker
  • 🔒↔️ Dallas: Locked into 5th with loss, one game up on (6) New Orleans with Mavs holding tiebreaker
  • ↔️ New Orleans: Remains 6th, one game up on (7) Phoenix for the final guaranteed playoff spot
  • ↔️ Phoenix: Remains 7th, one game back of (6) New Orleans
  • ⬆️ L.A. Lakers: Rise from 10th to 8th, one game up on both (9) Sacramento and (10) Golden State
  • ⬇️ Sacramento: Drops from 8th to 9th, holding tiebreaker over (10) Golden State, one game back of (8) Lakers
  • ⬇️ Golden State: Drops from 9th to 10th via tiebreaker to Sacramento, one game back of (8) Lakers

Bracket

Eastern Conference

  • ↔️ Milwaukee: Remains 2nd via tiebreaker over (3) New York, both one game up on (4) Cleveland
  • ↔️ New York: Remains 3rd via tiebreaker to (2) Milwaukee, both one game up on (4) Cleveland
  • ☑️ ↔️ Cleveland: Remains 4th while clinching playoff berth, one game back of (3) NY and (2) Milwaukee
  • ↔️ Orlando: Remains 5th via tiebreakers over (6) Indiana and (7) Philadelphia, one game up on (8) Miami
  • ↔️ Indiana: Remains 6th via tiebreakers with (5) Orlando and (7) Philadelphia, one game up on (8) Miami
  • ↔️ Philadelphia: Remains 7th via tiebreakers with (5) Orlando and (6) Indiana, one game up on (8) Miami
  • ↔️ Miami: Remains 8th, one game back of (5) Orlando, (6) Indiana and (7) Philly
  • 🔒↔️ Boston (1), Chicago (9) and Atlanta (10): All were previously locked in their seeds

5. IT ALL COMES DOWN TO SUNDAY

Jalen Brunson

With only five of the 20 postseason seeds determined, Sunday is going to be action-packed with clinching scenarios to watch, tiebreakers to calculate, and plenty of scoreboard watching.

Keep an eye on these five races (all games on NBA App unless noted; all East games tip at 1 ET, all West games tip at 3:30 ET):

  • West 1 Seed: The Thunder (vs. Mavs), Wolves (vs. Suns) and Nuggets (at Memphis) finally settle their months-long battle for the top of the West
  • East 2 Seed: The Bucks and Knicks are tied (Bucks own tiebreaker) so New York needs to win (vs. Bulls, ESPN) and Milwaukee to lose (at Magic) to move up
  • West 6 Seed: The Suns need a win (at Wolves) and a Pelicans loss (vs. Lakers, ESPN) to claim the final guaranteed playoff spot via tiebreaker over NOLA
  • East 5-6 Seeds: The Magic (vs. Bucks), Pacers (vs. Hawks), Sixers (vs. Nets) and Heat (vs. Raptors) all have a shot at securing one of the final two guaranteed playoff spots in the East
  • West 8 Seed: The Lakers control their own destiny as a win (at Pelicans) clinches No. 8. A loss opens the door for the Kings (vs. Blazers) and Warriors (vs. Jazz)

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