Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, June 15: Dallas forces Game 5 in NBA Finals

With their season on the line, the Mavs respond with a dominant Game 4 win to send the Finals back to Boston on Monday.

Starting 5

When you send the series back to Boston.


What’s inside today’s edition?

Start To Finish: Dallas opened the game hot and never cooled off in a 38-point win

Luka Leads The Way: After fouling out of Game 3, Doncic drove Dallas in Game 4

Dallas Defense: How the Mavs held the Celtics to a season-low 84 points

All-Access: Go behind-the-scenes from Game 4 with our on-the-ground correspondents

Game 4 Frames: Some of our favorite photos from Friday in Dallas


Game 4 and the remaining Finals schedule …

It’s a travel day as the NBA Finals shift back to Boston for Game 5 on Monday night. Stay tapped in on the NBA App for the latest news and exclusive access all weekend.

Trivia Time: Test your knowledge with today’s NBA Play: Expert Mode challenge, and list the five all-time leaders in Finals 3-pointers made.


In Game 3, Dallas got off to a hot start, building a 13-point lead midway through the 1st quarter before the Mavs cooled off, and the Celtics regained their poise and got back in the game.

In Game 4, with their season on the line, the Dallas hot start never stopped.

Their 13-point lead after the 1st quarter became 20, then 30, then 40, before ending with the third-highest margin of victory in Finals history (+38) in a 122-84 win over Boston. | Recap

  • More History: Dallas became only the third team in the past 70 years to force a Game 5 when trailing 3-0 in the NBA Finals. The others? The 1996 Sonics and 2017 Cavs
  • Streak Snappers: Dallas’ win snaps Boston’s 10-game Playoff win streak and hands the Celtics their first road loss this postseason
  • Setting The Tone: Dallas’ stars Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving were determined not to see their season end on Friday. They combined to outscore the Celtics by themselves in the 1st quarter (22-21) and the 1st half (36-35) | Best of Luka & Kyrie in Game 4
  • The Stars Had Help: The rest of the Mavs combined for 25 points on 57.1% shooting in the 1st half. They shot 4-of-6 from 3, including the first-ever NBA 3 by Dereck Lively II

Lively II (11 pts, 12 reb) posted his second straight double-double, joining Magic Johnson (5x in 1980) as the only players to record multiple double-doubles in the NBA Finals before turning 21 years old.

  • 🗣️ Luka On The Full-Team Effort: “It’s big. It’s basketball. It’s five people on the floor. So that’s huge for us. Everybody played with a lot of energy. That’s how we got to do it. We got to think the same way in Game 5 in Boston.”

At the half, the Mavs had doubled their 13-point first-quarter lead to 26 and still didn’t let up after the break. Just 48 hours earlier, the Mavs had gone on a 22-2 run in just five minutes to erase a 20+ point lead, so they kept their foot on the gas.

  • After back-to-back dunks by Lively II made it a 36-point game with 3:18 left in the 3rd quarter, Boston coach Joe Mazzulla pulled his starters and emptied his bench
  • The Mavs bench kept it rolling. Tim Hardaway Jr, who was scoreless on 0-of-7 shooting in 27 Finals minutes entering Game 4, hit five 3s in the 4th quarter as Dallas’ lead peaked at 48 points

When the final buzzer sounded, the Mavs had racked up 122 points (after being held under 100 in each of the first three games) and had only allowed 84 points — tying Boston’s lowest mark under Mazzulla.

Teams often preach playing for 48 minutes. With their season on the line, the Mavs delivered one of the most dominant 48 minutes in NBA Finals history.

  • 🗣️ Coach Jason Kidd In The Locker Room Pregame: This is what we live for. This is what it’s all about. Someone wrote it [on the whiteboard] ‘We gotta believe’ and ‘Why not us?’ We go to Boston tomorrow, I hope you guys all packed.”


All Luka Doncic could do was watch.

  • After he and the Mavs had cut a 21-point lead down to three in Game 3, Luka fouled out on a block/charge call with 4:12 left in the game
  • And while Kyrie Irving cut the lead to one, the Mavs never regained the lead and fell into a 3-0 hole in the Finals

With the Mavs’ season on the line 48 hours later, how would the scoring champ respond to lowest-scoring game in a month, and his first Playoff foul-out?

The answer: quickly.

Doncic hit three of Dallas’ first four buckets of the game, finishing the 1st quarter with 13 points as the Mavs built a lead of the same amount — on the way to a game-high 29 pts with 5 reb, 5 ast & 3 stl.

Luka and the Mavs kept rolling in the 2nd quarter, with Doncic adding another dozen points to give him 25 at the half, along with four assists and three rebounds.

  • Third Youngest: Luka (25 years, 107 days) became the third-youngest player to score 25+ in the 1st half of a Finals game. The only players younger? Hakeem Olajuwon (23y, 125d in 1986) and current teammate Kyrie Irving (25y, 78d in 2017)
  • Fourth Ever: Luka joined LeBron James (2x), Larry Bird and Nikola Jokic as the only players to accumulate at least 600 pts, 150 reb, 150 ast in a single Playoff run
  • 🗣️ Kidd: “I thought he was great … I thought he played his game tonight. He didn’t force anything. … We talked about it, we got to play faster. I thought he set the pace for us tonight.”

Luka added four more points, two steals and one half-court alley-oop dime to Daniel Gafford in the 3rd quarter before exiting the game for good with 1:29 left in the period.

Once again, all Luka could do was watch. This time for the final 13:29 of game time, after he and the Mavs had built a historic lead (+48), accomplishing their mission to keep the season alive.

  • First Step: The Mavs are trying to become the first team in 157 tries (15 in the Finals) to win a best-of-seven series after trailing 3-0
  • Next Steps: Of the previous 156 teams to go down 3-0, only 15 have forced Game 6 (which Dallas will try to do in Boston on Monday). And only four have forced Game 7
  • 🗣️ Luka On His Walk-Off: “Still believe.”


In the regular season, the Celtics boasted an offensive rating of 122.2, the highest in the play-by-play era (since 1997-98).

In Game 4 of the Finals, the Mavericks held the Cs to a season-low 84 points with one of the best defensive efforts by any team this season.

Blitzing Boston from the start, the Mavs entered the break up 61-35, marking the fewest points Boston has scored in a half since Joe Mazzulla took over as head coach.

Leading the way? The scoring champ and the Mavs’ 20-year-old rook.

  • Setting The Tone: Lively II led all players with 20+ min in DefRtg, at 81.4, with Luka second at 85.7
  • Cool Off: After Boston shot 46.4% in the first three games of the Finals, the Mavs held the Cs to just 36.2% in Game 4
  • Playoff Low: That field goal percentage represents Boston’s lowest of the postseason and its second-lowest since December 2022
  • Tough 2s: Dallas held Boston to 38.5% shooting from inside the arc, an 18.9% drop-off from its series average entering the night (57.4%)
  • Owning The Inside: The Mavs held the Celtics to 58.8% shooting in the restricted area and 18.8% in the rest of the paint — down 11% and 24.8% from their Playoff averages, respectively
  • Limited Helpers: Boston was held to 18 dimes after averaging 26 assists through  three games

All-Around Effort: Boston entered the night with a 113.6 offensive rating in the Finals, but Dallas held that mark to 87.5 in Game 4.

  • Points In the Paint: The Mavs held the Celtics to 26 points in the paint, their second-fewest of the season and 14 fewer than their series average going into Game 4
  • Hustle: Boston averaged 12.3 fast break points and 8.7 offensive boards in the first three games of the Finals, but Dallas limited those marks to a series-low six and four, respectively
  • Defense ➡️ Offense: Dallas is the seventh team in the last 20 Finals to hold their opponent under 40% from the field while shooting better than 50%
  • 🗣️ Coach Mazzulla On Dallas: “Their multiple efforts … every time we went in for a layup, they had multiple guys contest … They just did a great job flying around on the defensive end.”


Game 4 Like Never Before: Warriors rookie Brandin Podziemski and Content Creator Jenna Bandy served as NBA Correspondents for Game 4 in Dallas, where they experienced the electricity of the Finals.

  • 🗣️ Podz: “I think Dallas is going to win tonight … It’s been a great environment, and it’s something I can’t wait to experience.”
  • 🗣️Jenna: “Energy is everything … These Dallas fans just really showed me that if you believe, you can achieve.”

Dive deeper with Podz, Jenna and our All-Access team, from watching shootaround alongside 2024 NBA Draft prospect Alex Sarr to hearing Luka’s immediate thoughts after the win.