Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, April 8: The final countdown (feat. Tyrese Maxey & Kyrie Irving)

The final week of the regular season is here. And Sunday night started it off with a bang.

Starting 5

One hundred, sixty-seven regular-season days down … seven to go.

With no games tonight – and an eclipse to catch if you’re in the U.S. – today’s edition is designed to do 2 things:

  1. Get you a breather before a BIG final week
  2. Break down where the Playoff races stand, quick

(In case you still need to go pick up some eclipse shades)


What’s inside today’s edition? 

Must-Know: How did Sunday’s results impact a historic Playoff race?

Kyrie, Maxey Deliver: Huge nights from two of the league’s top guards power crucial OT wins

Roundup: Clippers come from 26 back, Wolves jump to No. 1 again

Paths Ahead: The Bucks have the toughest remaining strength of schedule. How about the other postseason-bound teams?

The Final Week: Circling games this week? Start here.


Last night’s scores & what to watch

14-Game Tuesday: After a break today, the schedule resumes tomorrow with a TNT doubleheader & a monster night of hoops. See what’s coming in Section 5

NBA ID Member Days tip off today, with limited-time perks for NBA ID members all week long. Tap in to get yours or sign up


Two of the tightest postseason races in history just got even tighter, across both the East & the West.

Who Clinched? 🔒

  • Milwaukee locked up a guaranteed Playoff spot
  • Golden State became the West’s 10th and final team to clinch a spot in the Play-In or better
  • All 20 postseason teams are set. But where exactly those 20 teams will end up? Far, far from it. Find more in Sections 4 & 5, with Playoff, Play-In, home court and matchups all decided this week 

Who Moved Up? ⬆️

  • East: Magic to 3rd, Knicks to 4th, 76ers to 7th
  • West: Wolves to 1st, Kings to 8th

Who Moved Down? ⬇️

  • East: Cavs to 5th (from 3rd), Heat to 8th
  • West: Nuggets to 2nd, Lakers to 9th
  • The Rockets were officially eliminated, a week after a blistering run brought them within one game of the 10th seed

How Historic Are These Races? 💥

  • 3 Teams Within 1: Just one game separates the West’s top 3 teams. That hasn’t happened in the season’s final week in either conference in 16 years.
  • In Fact … it’s only happened eight times ever in NBA history, across the East or West
  • Throwing It Back To ‘79: Just 1.5 games separate the No. 2 and No. 5 seeds in the East. That hasn’t happened after April 7 since 1979

Reminder: The top 6 teams in both conferences automatically reach the Playoffs, which start April 20. The next four play in the 2024 SoFi NBA Play-In Tournament, which starts April 16


Without Joel Embiid, Tyrese Maxey's career night carries 76ers

Tyrese Maxey drops a career-high 52 points in Sunday's double OT win over the Spurs, keeping Philly at pace in the East.

Sunday saw two of the game’s most electrifying guards rise up when their teams needed them the most, as Tyrese Maxey and Kyrie Irving put up career- and season-highs, respectively, to keep both squads hot heading into the postseason.

The rise of Tyrese Maxey added a new chapter Sunday, with the 76ers’ first-time All-Star going for a career-high 52 points – including a bucket to send the game to OT – to propel the shorthanded Sixers to a 133-126 double-OT win over the Spurs.

Victor Wembanymama (33 pts, 18 reb, 7 blks) ascended to give San Antonio the near-win with Joel Embiid sitting out the second game of a back-to-back. But the Sixers erased an 11-point 4Q deficit to force OT, then and win in the second extra frame. | Recap | Fantastic Finish

  • Nic Batum 🗣️: “We needed that tonight. Tyrese has been amazing for us all year long. We could easily like “Aw, this is not our night. They’re playing good. Second night of a back-to-back. No, he didn’t give up. He led the way for us. He kept fighting for us.”
  • 5 In A Row: Philly’s a perfect 4-0 since Embiid came back, with their five-game win streak tied for the longest active run in the NBA
  • What Was At Stake? The Sixers still have a shot at the No. 6 seed, but would need to make up two games on the Pacers to do so, with Indy owning the tiebreaker
  • Exclusive Club: Maxey’s third 50-point game this year (after breaking 40 just once in his first 3 years) made him the fourth Sixer to accomplish the feat, joining Embiid, Allen Iverson and Wilt Chamberlain
  • There’s More: No team has ever had two players score 50 thrice (thrice!) in a year, with Embiid also doing so earlier this season

Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic have Mavericks hitting stride at right moment

Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic prove a dynamic duo in Sunday's OT win over Rockets, where role players enable the superstars.

Kyrie Creates Space: The Mavs headed into the day up a game on the Suns in 5th. Thanks to Kyrie Irving’s season-high 48 – along with 37 from Luka Doncic and a buzzer-beating, OT-forcing 3 from Dante Exum – they left Sunday up two games, after a 147-136 comeback win over Houston. | Recap | Watch The OT Ending | Kyrie & Luka

  • Clutch Kyrie: Irving got 25 of his 48 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, as the Mavs stormed back from 22 points down
  • 7th Time’s A Charm: Kyrie and Luka both scored 30+ in a game for the seventh time this year, third-most for a duo this season behind Giannis & Dame and Embiid & Maxey, who each have 8
  • Kyrie 🗣️: “I’m depleted. Energetic, but I’m depleted. We kept battling and kept doing the little things and trusting one another.”
  • The loss marked the fifth in a row for Houston, who had won 11 in a row before this stretch, tied for the longest win streak in the league in 2023-24


Clippers Complete 3rd Largest Comeback: Paul George (39 pts, 23 in the 4th) and the Clippers erased a 26-point lead to beat the Cavs, 120-118 – LA’s third-largest comeback of the play-by-play era. | Recap

  • How It Started: Cleveland put up a season-high 80 pts in the first half, leading by 21 at the break. But LA outscored the Cavs 29-6 from the end of the 3rd Q into the 4th
  • How It Finished: Terance Mann & Amir Coffey’s treys gave the Clippers their first lead since the 1st, at 118-115 with :47 left. After the Cavs tied it, PG hit a jumper with 7 seconds remaining and sealed the win with a block on the final possession | Watch the finish
  • PG 🗣️: “These situations aren’t ideal, but it’s nice when posed with these challenges we come together. We really just dug down. That second half was special. Everyone was locked in defensively.”
  • Different Directions: The win gave the Clippers their 8th win in their past 11 games, while the loss sent the Cavs to 3-8 over theirs

Wolves Beat Lakers, Draw Even With Denver: Naz Reid put up 31 pts and Anthony Edwards chipped in 26 more as the Timberwolves took down a Lakers team playing without LeBron (flu-like symptoms) and Anthony Davis (after AD took a blow to the face on a 1st Q putback). | Recap

OKC Returns To Winning Ways: Playing without SGA and Jalen Williams again, Josh Giddey’s 11th career triple-double and Isaiah Joe’s two late treys ended the Thunder’s losing streak at three games – their longest of the year – with a 121-118 win over the Hornets. | Recap | Fantastic Finish

  • Chet Holmgren became the 8th rookie in NBA history to have 1300 pts and 600+ reb in a season – and the first Thunder rook since the franchise got to OKC

Brunson Drops 43, Bucks Streak Continues: Jalen Brunson’s 43 points and a second-half Knicks rally gave NY a 122-109 win over Milwaukee, whose losing streak extended to a season-long four games. Giannis had 28 pts, 15 reb & 8 ast. | Recap

  • Middleton Exits: The Bucks’ trio of Antetokounmpo, Damian Lillard and Khris Middleton played together for just the 4th time in 29 games, until Middleton had to leave after suffering a blow to the face in the second quarter

Pacers Set Assist Mark, Drop Heat: Myles Turner put up 22 pts & 13 reb, as Indy held off Jimmy Butler (27 pts, 7 reb, 8 ast) and the Heat, 117-115. The Pacers set a new franchise record for most assists in a season, with its 2,411 dimes passing 1991-92’s previous high of 2,398. | Recap

Pelicans, Suns Tied For 6th: New Orleans got a combined 60 from CJ McCollum (31) and Zion Williamson – along with a career-high five blocks from Zion – to beat the Suns, 113-105, and pull into a tie with Phoenix at 46-32. The Suns own the tiebreaker. | Recap

Klay Catches Fire, Dubs Beat Jazz: Playing without Steph Curry, fellow Splash Bro Klay Thompson poured in 32 points – his second-highest total of the season – on 6-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc to give Golden State a 118-110 win over Utah. | Recap

Sabonis’ Massive Double-Double Sparks W: Domantas Sabonis’ 18-pt, 20-reb performance – his 61st straight double-double, the seventh-longest in a season in NBA history – pushed the Kings to a 107-77 win over Brooklyn, snapping a two-game losing streak for Sacramento. | Recap

Banchero Joins T-Mac As Magic Win: Paolo Banchero’s 24-pt, 6-reb, 5-ast night paced the Magic to the 113-98 win over the Bulls, joining Tracy McGrady as the only players to tally 1700 pts, 500 reb and 400 ast in a season for the Magic. | Recap

Milestone For Brown In Celtics Win: Jaylen Brown’s 26 points sent him past 10,000 for his career, becoming the 19th Celtic to reach that mark, as the Cs beat the Blazers 124-107 to push their win streak to five games – tied for longest in the league. | Recap

IQ Paces Raptors Past Wiz: Immanuel Quickley’s season-high 31 pts led four Raptors with 20+, sending Toronto to the 130-122 win. | Recap


The Paths Ahead: All but four of the 20 postseason-bound teams have four games left to play, with the Cavs, Pacers, Sixers and Lakers set to play three more times.

Remaining Strength Of Schedule, from highest opponent win % to lowest

  • Milwaukee, .663
  • Phoenix, .638
  • Orlando, .562
  • New York, .534
  • Sacramento, .532
  • Atlanta, .514
  • LA Clippers, .510
  • Oklahoma City, .510
  • Los Angeles Lakers, .496
  • New Orleans, .492
  • Minnesota, .482
  • Indiana, .455
  • Golden State, .450
  • Miami, .429
  • Denver, .413
  • Dallas, .410
  • Boston, .406
  • Cleveland, .387
  • Chicago, .383
  • Philadelphia, .383


What’s ahead this week? Three nights with 14+ games. A Playoff Picture that may get a whole lot cloudier before it gets clearer. And stakes going up with every passing minute.

Here’s where to start:

Tuesday: 14 games

  • Celtics-Bucks, (7:30 ET, TNT): Rivals, perennial powers and the top 2 teams in the East meet, with Boston winners of five straight and Milwaukee looking to win for the first time in five games
  • Kings-Thunder, (8 ET, NBA App): Can OKC keep pace in the race for the West’s top spot? Can the Kings stay ahead of the surging Lakers?
  • Warriors-Lakers, (10 ET, TNT): The 9th and 10th teams in the West stage a potential Play-In preview, with the Lakers 8-2 in their last 10 and the Dubs 7-3
  • Clippers-Suns, (10 ET, NBA App): Locked in a battle for the last guaranteed spot, the streaking Suns meet another team on a run – with both squads 7-3 in their last 10 –  in their first of two straight matchups

Wednesday: 8 games

  • Mavs-Heat, (7:30 ET, ESPN): Dallas has found its groove. At 6-4 in its last 10, Miami’s starting to heat up … with the stats speaking to a team that’s finding its form, too
  • Magic-Bucks, (8 ET, NBA App): Depending on how Tuesday goes, this one could be a showdown for the No. 2 spot in the East.
  • Timberwolves-Nuggets, (10 ET, ESPN): Champs vs. upstart contenders in a potential battle for the No. 1 seed
  • Suns-Clippers, (10:30 ET, NBA App): Some of the greatest scorers & playmakers the game’s ever seen, sharing the floor for the second straight night, as a rare back-to-back, home-and-home moves to LA

Thursday: 5 games

  • Knicks-Celtics, (7:30 ET, TNT): Two longtime rivals meet with the Celtics out to sweep the season series, and the Knicks out to stay top 4 (or better) in the standings
  • Pelicans-Kings, (10 ET, TNT): The Pelicans look to sweep the rare five-game series with the Kings this year 

15 games each on Friday & Sunday

We’ll be back to unpack the weekend as the Playoff Picture comes together over the next 3 days