Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, April 28: Lakers stay alive, Thunder & Celtics take control

The Lakers beat the Nuggets for the first time since 2022. OKC takes a 3-0 lead, Boston bounces back and Orlando ties its series.

Starting 5

When you stave off elimination and keep your season alive …


What’s inside today’s edition?

Lakers Stay Alive: L.A. snaps an 11-game losing streak to Denver, forcing a Game 5

Thunder Up 3-0: OKC moves one win away from their first playoff series victory in eight years

Celtics Regain Control: Boston never trails in Miami, taking back home-court advantage

Magic Even Series: Franz Wagner’s 34 points help Orlando hold serve at home

Sunday Preview: Why Game 4 is pivotal in a 2-1 series and a look at three such games today


Last night’s scores & what to watch today.

Spend your Sunday with a quartet of Game 4s. An ABC doubleheader features Knicks-Sixers (1 ET) and Clippers-Mavs (3:30 ET) with New York and Dallas holding 2-1 series leads.

A TNT doubleheader keeps the action going with Bucks-Pacers (7 ET, TNT) and Wolves-Suns (9:30 ET, TNT) with Indiana up 2-1 and Minnesota trying to close out Phoenix.


The Streak Is Over: The Lakers defeated the Nuggets 119-108 to snap an 11-game losing streak to the defending champs, avoid a second straight sweep and keep their season alive by forcing a Game 5 on Monday back in Denver. | Recap

Stars Lead The Way: LeBron James (30 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast, 3 stl) scored 14 of his 30 in the 4th, while Anthony Davis (25 pts, 23 reb, 6 ast) posted his second career Playoff 20/20 game as they combined for 55 points.

  • Elimination Bron: LeBron posted his 19th 30+ point performance in 27 career elimination games, improving to 15-12 while averaging 33.6 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 7.4 apg with his season on the line
  • 🗣️ LeBron:We give ourselves another lifeline… Monday’s game is the most important game of the season for us.”
  • Historic AD: Davis joined Shaquille O’Neal (twice) and Wilt Chamberlain as the only Lakers to post 25+ pts, 20+ reb, 5+ ast and shoot 60+% in a Playoff game

Supporting Cast Delivers: D’Angelo Russell scored 21 points with four 3s after a scoreless Game 3. Austin Reaves scored 21 for his second straight 20+ point game.

Denver Rally Falls Short: After overcoming double-digit deficits in each of the first three games, the Nuggets found themselves in a hole again (trailing 61-48 at the half). They closed the gap to six points, but L.A. was finally able to fend them off.

  • 🗣️ Nuggets Coach Michael Malone: “To close a team out you can’t play a half of basketball. If we’re gonna try to win this in five games in front of our crowd, it’s gonna take us coming out ready to play and sustaining that for 48 minutes.”
  • 🗣️ Nikola Jokic: “I learned in horse racing it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”
  • Joker Goes Off: Jokic (33 pts, 14 reb, 14 ast) posted his second triple-double of the series and the 18th of his Playoff career, which ranks third all-time behind LeBron (28) and Magic Johnson (30)


Thunder Push Pels To The Brink: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (24 pts, 8 ast, 4 stl) and Josh Giddey (21 pts, 8 reb, 6 ast, 4 3s) combined for 45 points in New Orleans, propelling OKC to a 106-85 win and a 3-0 series lead. | Recap

  • Game-Changing Run: After New Orleans made it a one-point game with 4:39 left in the 2nd quarter, OKC closed the half on a 20-7 run, featuring a trio of Lu Dort 3s
  • J-Dub Seals It: After the Pelicans pulled within 10 late in the 3rd, Jalen Williams made three 3s over a 3:30 span to push the lead to 20, and OKC cruised from there

  • Defensive Force: OKC has held New Orleans below 93 points in every game this series after NOLA was held below 93 only twice all season
  • Dort held his matchups scoreless, while Chet Holmgren blocked four shots to bring his three-game total to 11. OKC coach Mark Daigneault on Chet: “He was outstanding.”
  • 🗣️ SGA After The Win:We learn from every experience and try to get better from it and get ready for this moment.”
  • Brandon Ingram (19 pts) and CJ McCollum (16 pts, 7 ast) led the Pelicans, who will try to keep their season alive in Monday’s Game 4
  • One Win Away: OKC needs one more win to secure its first Playoff series victory since 2015-16, when the Thunder advanced to the Western Conference Finals


Wire-To-Wire: After Miami swiped home-court advantage with a 111-101 win in Wednesday’s Game 2, Boston took it right back in Saturday’s Game 3 with a dominant performance, as the C’s never trailed in a 104-84 win. | Recap

  • Jayson & Jaylen: Tatum and Brown scored 22 points apiece to lead a balanced Boston offense that also got 18 from Kristaps Porzingis and 16 from Derrick White
  • Lock Down Defense: Boston held Miami to a season-low 84 points. The last three times the Heat have scored fewer than 85 points – regular season or Playoffs – came against the Celtics (Games 4 and 5 of the 2022 East Finals and Saturday’s Game 4)
  • Defense To Offense: Boston turned Miami’s 12 turnovers into 24 points, while committing just five turnovers leading to four Heat points
  • 🗣️ Tatum: “That’s where we’re going to win games, on the defensive end.”
  • 🗣️ Brown: “We’re here in 2024, we got a new team and we learn from our experiences… now is the time to show it, the whole world is watching.”
  • Bam Adebayo led the Heat with 20 points and nine boards, while Tyler Herro and Nikola Jovic added 15 apiece
  • 🗣️ Jovic: “From the jump, they were more aggressive than us. That shouldn’t be happening.”


Magic Hold Home Court: Trailing 2-1 in the series and down by nine at the half, the Magic were staring at a 3-1 deficit with the series shifting back to Cleveland for Game 5.

Then the 3rd quarter happened.

Franz Wagner scored 12 of his game-high 34 points in the 3rd as the Magic pulled away with a 27-5 run. The Magic won the 3rd quarter 37-10, the second half 61-29 and the game 112-89. | Recap

  • 🗣️ Jonathan Isaac: “Once we came back from that nine-point deficit starting the 3rd, and they took that timeout, I felt like OK, the momentum is swinging in our direction.”
  • 🗣️ Franz On The Mic: What does a Playoff career-high sound like in real-time? Hear from Franz as he was mic’d up for Game 4 as Orlando improved to 8-0 this season when he scores 30+ points
  • 🗣️ Brotherly Love:One of the best games I’ve ever seen him play.” – Mo Wagner on his brother Franz

Spreading The Magic: Orlando got 14 points off the bench from Isaac, 12 points apiece from Jalen Suggs and Markelle Fultz and 11 from Wendell Carter Jr.

Headed Home: Jarrett Allen (21 pts, 9 reb) and Donovan Mitchell (18 pts, 6 ast) combined for 39 to lead the Cavs, who will try to get their offense back on track as the series returns to Cleveland.

  • 🗣️ Cavs Coach J.B. Bickerstaff: “They held home court just like we did. Now we get an opportunity to go home and play a best-of-three series with two games in Cleveland.”


Every Playoff game brings high stakes, but some carry with them the chance to change the trajectory of a series.

Three of those games are on tap today.

The Knicks, Mavs and Pacers enter their Game 4s holding 2-1 series leads over the Sixers, Clippers and Bucks, respectively.

  • What 3-1 Means: A big advantage. Just 13 (out of 281) teams have ever climbed out of a hole that deep to win a series
  • A 2-2 series becomes a best of 3. In NBA history, teams that break a tie to win Game 5 in a best of 7 have gone on to win the series more than 80% of the time
  • The series shift back to New York, LA and Milwaukee after this

Game 4: Knicks-Sixers (1 ET, ABC, NYK Leads 2-1)

  • Sixers: Philly rode Joel Embiid’s Playoff career-high 50 points to their first win of the series in Game 3, improving to 9-0 when Embiid scores 50+ in his career
  • The home team has won each game in this series. Can Philly keep it going?
  • Knicks: After being held to 23 ppg on 29% shooting in the first two games (both wins), Jalen Brunson found his offense in Game 3 (39 pts on 48%). Can he do it again in Game 4?

Game 4: Clippers-Mavs (3:30 ET, ABC, DAL Leads 2-1)

  • Mavs: After losing Game 1 in L.A., Dallas has won two straight on the strength of their defense (93 and 90 points allowed) and goes for a 3-1 lead at home
  • Clippers: How will the Clippers respond to their lowest-scoring game in nearly three years (80 pts on June 26, 2021)?
  • Paul George (7 pts) and Kawhi Leonard (9 pts) were both held to single digits in the same game for the first time as teammates (min. 24 minutes)

Game 4: Bucks-Pacers (7 ET, TNT, IND Leads 2-1)

  • Pacers: After being held to 94 points and 20 assists in their Game 1 loss, the Pacers’ offense got back on track with consecutive games of 120+ points and 30+ assists
  • Bucks: Damian Lillard (Achilles tendinitis) joined Giannis Antetokounmpo (calf strain) on the Bucks injury report as doubtful for Game 4
  • Khris Middleton (ankle sprain) was questionable entering Game 3 and dropped a playoff career-high 42 points in the loss