Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, April 21: Ant Edwards went viral. Who else had the biggest Game 1s?

Edwards leads 5 breakout performances to open the 2024 NBA Playoffs, as the Wolves, Nuggets, Knicks and Cavs all win at home.

When you get to see stars shining, a new generation rising, and a full day of wall-to-wall Playoff ball, 2 days in a row.


Ant Shows Out: Ant Edwards shined brighter than the Suns, in a day of breakout performances

Denver’s Defense: The Nuggets opened their title defense with a 9th straight win over the Lakers

Protecting Home: The Knicks and Cavs each started up their series with a home win

Familiar Foes: A new round in the Boston-Miami (4th in 5 years) and Clips-Mavs (3rd in 5 years) rivalries

Welcome Back: The Thunder and Pacers each open their first Playoffs since 2020 today


Four More Game 1s: Start your Sunday on ABC with Celtics-Heat (1 ET) and Clippers-Mavs (3:30 ET), then switch over to TNT for Bucks-Pacers (7 ET) and Thunder-Pelicans (9:30 ET).

NBA Awards Finalists: The three finalists for Kia Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year & five more awards honoring the season’s top performers will be announced tonight (6:30 ET, TNT).


Every year, it happens.

That spotlight hits. The pressure goes (way) up. The stakes spike.

And in that crucible, the NBA’s biggest stars are forged.

On Saturday, in front of a global audience, Anthony Edwards played some of the most unstoppable ball of his career, dropping 33 pts – and giving the world an all-time GIF – to power the Wolves’ 120-95 Game 1 win over the Suns. | Watch Ant Work

  • The 3rd Quarter: Ant found a near-cosmic level in the 3rd quarter, breaking off shakes, range, feel and scoring genius – and showing evolution of a game that’s seen the 22-year-old go from athletic phenom to rising superstar
  • The Matchup: Ant found himself squaring off against Kevin Durant, Edwards’ favorite player growing up. KD had the edge early (and finished with 31). Said Edwards: “At times, it felt like there was nothing we could do.”
  • The Moment: With Edwards heating up late in the 3rd and the crowd on its feet, he shook Durant, stuck a three over his idol and let KD know it on the way back, both stars smiling. Watch from courtside
  • The Chants: Ant heard ‘MVP’ chants from the Minnesota faithful postgame, with hopes of winning their first Playoff series since 2004
  • More History: Ant’s 18-pt 3rd quarter tied Sam Cassell (2004) for the most pts in a quarter in Wolves playoff history. His sixth 30+ pt Playoff game puts him one behind Kevin Garnett (7) in team history, while Durant’s 76th moved him to fourth on the NBA’s all-time list

Inside Edwards’ Rise: Learn how Ant’s bond with his siblings allowed him to navigate family tragedy on the path to superstardom in his episode of Pass The Rock.

On The Up: The day brought the best out of rising stars all around the league, from the opening tip to the close.

  • Jarrett Allen: ICYMI, Allen ranked 17th in PIE this year leaguewide – a measure of a player’s impact per minute. That’s higher than KD, Ant, Steph & many many more. The Cavs’ big man had 16 pts and a Playoff career-high 18 boards in the win
  • Deuce McBride: The Knicks’ third-year guard went for 21 points on 5-for-7 shooting, not to mention a +37 (!!) mark – the only time since 1997-98 a player’s had a +/- that high in a Playoff game this close
  • Josh Hart: OK, Hart’s a vet. But he’s never had a season like 2023-24, when he’s played basically every minute since All-Star. The Knicks wing dropped 13 of his 22 pts in the 4th quarter as the Knicks pulled away, including 3-for-4 from deep
  • Tyrese Maxey: The Sixers’ star PG showed off his creativity – and acrobatics – all night, on the way to a game-high 33 pts.


Denver Makes It 9 Straight: Game 1 of the 2024 First Round started the same way that the 2023 West Finals ended, with Nikola Jokic fueling a gritty Nuggets win over the Lakers to reach nine consecutive wins in the matchup over the regular season and Playoffs. | Recap

  • Lakers Start Fast: Over the first 18 minutes, LeBron (14 pts, 5 ast) and AD (16 pts) combined for 30 as L.A. built a 12-point lead while shooting 61.3% and holding Denver to 37.8%
  • Denver Responds: The Nuggets erased the lead to tie the game with four seconds left, only for LeBron to drain a 32-footer to put L.A. up 60-57 at the break
  • Huge 3rd Quarter: The game shifted for good with Denver winning the 3rd quarter 32-18, led by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (12 pts on 4 3s after a scoreless 1st half) and Jokic (8 pts, 4 ast)
  • Too Much Joker: Jokic was prolific (32 pts, 12 reb, 7 ast) and efficient (15-23 FG) and got help from Jamal Murray (22 pts, 10 ast) and Michael Porter Jr. (19 pts)
  • Lakers Duo Not Enough: LeBron (27 pts, 8 ast) and AD (32 pts, 14 reb) combined for 59 points, but L.A.’s 103 total points was their lowest since March 29
  • Said LeBron: “I thought we played some good ball tonight, just could have been better. You don’t have much room for error versus Denver’s team, especially at their home floor.”


Knicks-Sixers: In a showdown of two longtime rivals, and a game full of double-digit swings, the Knicks got 22 apiece from Jalen Brunson and Hart to beat the Sixers 111-104 in Game 1 … but the night belonged to McBride and the Knick reserves. | Recap

  • Deuce Is Wild: McBride outscored Philly by himself in the 2nd quarter (13 pts vs 12), when Joel Embiid momentarily left the game after landing awkwardly following this poster dunk
  • Special Reserves: New York’s bench unit finished with a 42-7 edge over the 76ers, with all of them posting a +20 or better
  • Philly’s duo of Embiid and Maxey combined for 62 points, with Embiid (29 pts, 8 reb, 6 ast) coming back to start the half and spark a 36-21 Sixers run that put Philly on top going into the 4th
  • Only to see NY come back to take a 32-22 edge in the 4th quarter, powered by Hart, McBride and Mitchell Robinson (8 pts, 12 reb, 4 blk), who went toe-to-toe with Embiid in the 2nd half

Cavs Drop Magic: Donovan Mitchell scored a game-high 30 to pace a 97-83 Cavaliers Game 1 win over the Magic, in a battle between two of the league’s top defensive teams. | Recap

  • Paolo’s Historic Debut: Banchero’s 24 points matched Shaquille O’Neal (April 28, 1994) for most points by an Orlando player in their first postseason game, though the Cavs forced 9 turnovers from the reigning Kia ROTY
  • Starting Strong: After dropping Game 1 at home and falling 4-1 to the Knicks last year, Cleveland held Orlando to its second-fewest points this season
  • Evan Mobley, Allen’s frontcourt partner, also posted a double-double, with a Playoff career-high 16 points and 11 boards
  • Said Mitchell: “Last year is over with. We flushed that. This is who we are, and this is who we expect to be.”


Celtics-Heat (1 ET, ABC): Adding a new chapter to one of the game’s top rivalries, today marks the 21st Playoff game between the Celtics and Heat in the 2020s … but the first outside of the East Finals.

  • 2020: (5) Heat over (3) Celtics (4-2)
  • 2022: (2) Celtics over (1) Heat (4-3)
  • 2023: (8) Heat over (2) Celtics (4-3)

Going The Distance: Their last two Playoff meetings went the full seven games, including last year when Boston nearly became the first team to win a series after trailing 3-0.

  • Seeds Don’t Matter: The lower-seeded team has won each of the past three series, including last year, after Miami knocked off the top two seeds in the East to become the first team to reach The Finals out of the Play-In
  • Why That Matters: Boston ran away with the No. 1 seed in the East, clinching the top seed with three weeks left in the regular season. But if there is any team that can’t be counted out – especially against Boston – it’s Miami

Heat Shorthanded: Miami lost Jimmy Butler (knee) after the opening game of the Play-In, but that didn’t stop the Heat from eliminating Chicago to earn the 8th seed and a date with Boston.

Clippers-Mavs (3:30 ET, ABC): Today begins the third first-round matchup between these teams in the past five years. The Clippers prevailed in both series – six games in 2020, seven games in 2021– but the basketball world got its first look at Playoff Luka Magic.

  • Luka’s Numbers: 33.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 9.5 apg, 3.6 3pg
  • Kawhi’s Numbers: 32.5 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 4.8 apg, 57.6% FG

Leonard’s Status for Game 1: He’s listed as questionable with a knee injury that has kept him out for all of April.

The Importance of Feb. 5: Since Feb. 5, Dallas has the second-best record in the NBA (24-9) as they climbed to the 5th seed. For the Clippers, Feb. 5 marked the end of a 26-5 run over a two-month span. Since then, LA closed the season 18-16.

A New Star Joins the Matchup: While Luka, Kawhi and Paul George have been part of this rivalry since 2020, Kyrie Irving brings a new dimension to the Mavs. In two games against LA this season, Kyrie averaged 26.5 points while shooting 50% from 3.


Bucks-Pacers (7 ET, TNT): Here’s the list of teams to have beaten the Milwaukee Bucks more than twice this season:

  • The Indiana Pacers, who won the season series 4-1, including the inaugural In-Season Tournament

It’s Been A While: All five of the regular-season meetings came between Nov. 9 and Jan. 3. A lot has happened since their last matchup.

  • The Bucks made a coaching change
  • The Pacers added Pascal Siakam at the trade deadline
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo ended the regular season nursing a calf injury that has him listed as ‘Doubtful’ for Game 1

Playoff Dame Time: If Giannis is unable to go, more of the offensive load falls on Damian Lillard, who will make his Bucks Playoff debut today after playing his first 61 Playoff games – and hitting two series-clinching game-winning buzzer-beaters – with Portland.

Welcome to the Show: After shining on the high-stakes stage of the In-Season Tournament, Tyrese Haliburton makes his Playoff debut, looking for similar success as the orchestrator of Indy’s second-ranked offense.

Thunder-Pelicans (9:30 ET, TNT): The final matchup set – after New Orleans clinched the 8 seed via the Play-In – is the final series to tip off this weekend.

  • A Unique No. 1: As the youngest team (weighted by playing time) to ever finish 1st in their conference, OKC lacks the Playoff experience of a traditional No. 1 seed. Of the core rotation, only Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Lu Dort have ever been to the Playoffs, playing just a combined 19 games
  • Season Series: OKC won the final two matchups to win the series 2-1, with SGA (25 ppg) leading the way and Williams (19.7), Holmgren (18.3) and Josh Giddey (14.7) all averaging 14+ ppg
  • No Zion: Williamson suffered a hamstring injury in NOLA’s opening Play-In game and is scheduled to be reevaluated on May 1 – the same day as a potential Game 5
  • What That Means: Zion (24.5 ppg, 9.0 apg) led the Pelicans in scoring and assists against OKC this season. The Pelicans showed they could win without him in the Play-In, with Brandon Ingram and CJ McCollum leading the way