Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, May 11: Unreal ending adds to all-time rivalry & champs rally back

Andrew Nembhard’s late 3 looked reminiscent of the Knicks’ clutch moments this playoffs, while Denver gets a big Game 3 road win.

Starting 5

When you just witnessed one of the biggest shots in franchise playoff history.


What’s inside today’s edition? 

Nembhard Wins It: Pacers guard sinks a historically deep go-ahead 3, turning the tables on New York

Hali’s Rally: Tyrese Haliburton’s 35 included a clutch 7-point 4th Q run to help Indy defend home court

Murray, Joker Set Tone: Nuggets’ dynamic duo paces a big comeback win for the champs

‘Changed The Culture’: How Game 2 star P.J. Washington & Daniel Gafford changed the Mavs this year

Spida Climbing: Donovan Mitchell’s Game 2 added another chapter to an elite Playoff scoring resume


Last night’s scores & what to watch today.

Thunder-Mavs (3:30 ET, ABC) sees the series shift to Dallas after Luka & the Mavs tied it up in Game 2. How will SGA, Chet & OKC answer?

Celtics-Cavs (8:30 ET, ABC), also tied 1-1, heads to Cleveland, where the Cavs will try to hand the Celtics back-to-back losses for just the 5th time this year.


“Pacers get the win. Right back in the series. What a game! What a series!” – ESPN’s Mike Breen

When Andrew Nembhard stepped back, then calmly drained a go-ahead 3 (from 31 feet) with 16 seconds left in Game 3, it…

  • Punctuated one of the all-time games in an (already) all-time Playoff rivalry
  • Capped a Pacers comeback that saw Indy come from 9 down in the 4th and a frenzied final four minutes
  • Cut New York’s series lead to 2-1 with a 111-106 Pacers win
  • And turned the tables on a team that had owned the clutch (and the boards) this postseason. | Recap | WILD Final 4:23

The Possession: The Pacers had taken the lead, but Jalen Brunson tied the game at 106-106 with 42 seconds left. Tyrese Haliburton’s 3-point attempt found iron, but Aaron Nesmith grabbed the board and passed it back out to Hali.

The Bucket: Haliburton kicked the ball to Nembhard, who, after some shakes and a long stepback, splashed from nearly 31 feet out – the second-deepest go-ahead 3 in the final 30 seconds of a Playoff game in the past 25 years. | See it from in-arena

  • The Deepest One? That Dame Lillard series-winning trey against the Thunder in 2019
  • 🗣️ Said Hali: “I put Drew in kind of a bad situation. … He just made an unbelievable shot.” Watch him break down the play
  • Timing Is Everything: Nemhard had gone 1-for-7 before the clutch triple, scoring all five of his points on the night in the final 2 minutes
  • 🗣️ Said Nembhard, who’d hit a winner against the Lakers as a rookie: “This one means a little more than the one in Los Angeles.”
  • Brunson’s Shot Falls Short: The Knicks PG’s game-tying attempt hit the front of the rim, sealing the Pacers’ win

Reversal Of Fortune: The Knicks lead all teams in offensive rebounding in the Playoffs and had dominated the Pacers on the boards (125-108 in series).

But in the closing seconds of Game 3, the Pacers pulled off a moment right out of NY’s playbook.

  • Anything You Can Do…: Nembhard’s 3 also looked like the clutch buckets that’d come from Donte DiVincenzo three times already in the postseason
  • This marked the first time in these Playoffs that the Knicks lost a game when trailing at half. They’d won the previous five times
  • Now 6-2 In Clutch: NY had come into this one at 6-1 in clutch Playoff games, only losing to Philly in Game 5 of the first round


With the Pacers’ backs against the wall – in the series, then once again in the 4th quarter – Tyrese Haliburton’s 35 points gave him his 2nd straight Playoff career-high, and a new signature performance in a breakout year.

His 35 points, which included 23 in the first half and 7 straight in the final frame, led Indy to arguably its biggest win in a decade, as the Pacers held off a Playoff career-high 35 from New York’s Donte DiVincenzo and 26 from Jalen Brunson. | Best of Hali

  • Hali’s Rally: After Indiana had given up an 11-point third quarter lead, only to fall behind the Knicks by 9 with 9:46 left, Haliburton went on a personal 7-0 run to cut the lead to 2
  • Taking Charge: He dished out two clutch dimes in the final 2 minutes, coming through in front of a home crowd that included WNBA No. 1 pick Caitlin Clark
  • 🗣️ Said Hali: “There’s just a lot of energy around basketball in Indiana right now, especially with the Fever and us… it’s really cool to see the energy in the building… they really willed us to a win tonight.”

Battle Of The PGs: Both teams get their identities from their floor generals. And in front of a global audience, both Haliburton and Brunson have taken over.

  • Haliburton became the 5th player in NBA Playoff history with back-to-back 30+ pt, 6+ 3PM games, joining Steph Curry (7), Donovan Mitchell (2), James Harden & Lillard
  • Brunson became the 3rd player in NBA Playoff history with 300+ pts & 70+ ast through their first 9 games, joining Michael Jordan (1989) and LeBron James (2018)
  • Brunson also became the 11th to record 300+ pts in their first 9 games

Takes A Team: The injury-depleted Knicks, who went without OG Anunoby (hamstring) in Game 3 got new peaks from DiVincenzo and Josh Hart, along with 14 pts from Alec Burks. The Pacers, meanwhile, got a combined 47 from Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner.

  • DiVincenzo became the first Knick with 35+ pts & 7+ treys in a Playoff game
  • Hart became the first Knick since Patrick Ewing in 1999 to have back-to-back 15+ rebound games

Up Next: Game 4 tips at 3:30 ET Sunday on ABC.

🗣️ Said Hali: “Everyone’s going to be amped for that game. It’s Mother’s Day. All our moms are going to be there. I’m excited.”


Rebounding from the worst back-to-back shooting performances of his Playoff career, Jamal Murray came out on the attack in Game 3, scoring 24 points (18 in the 1st half) to pace the Nuggets to a 117-90 win, cutting the Timberwolves’ lead to 2-1.

Nikola Jokic added 24 pts, 14 reb, 9 ast, 3 blk & 3 stl – the first time anyone’s had a statline with those minimums in NBA Playoffs history, while Michael Porter Jr. added 21. | Recap | Best Of Jamal, Joker and MPJ

  • Bouncing Back: The Nuggets recorded the biggest Game 3 winning margin ever (27 pts) for a team that had fallen behind 2-0 at home
  • Getting Buckets: The Nuggets caught fire from 3, shooting 14-29 from deep (48%)
  • Century Mark: Denver crossed 100 for the first time this series, and their 28-20 lead after 1 marked its biggest lead of the series
  • Murray’s 28.1 FG% in the first two games was his lowest total across two Playoff games of his career. He shot 52.4% in Game 3. Listen to him talk about his dad’s influence
  • 🗣️ Murray on Jokic: “He makes everyone around him better… it’s a blessing to be drafted into this situation, into this organization… it’s just a lot of fun.”

Anthony Edwards led the Wolves with 19, as Minny shot 43.7% … to the Nuggets’ scorching 53.7%.

The champs now look to tie the series in Game 4 (Sunday, 8 ET on TNT) and become the sixth defending champ (in 23 tries) to come back from a 2-0 deficit.

  • 🗣 Said Nuggets coach Michael Malone: “I had an edit made… of every talking head in this country saying that the series was over, the Nuggets are done, it’s a wrap… I knew that this would maybe strike a chord.”
  • Malone: “Tonight, that was Denver Nugget basketball. And that’s the first time I’ve seen that this series, across four quarters.”


Thunder at Mavs Game 3 | 3:30 ET, ABC | Tied, 1-1

The Mavs, as the story goes, had had their eyes on Daniel Gafford for five years, going back to his pre-Draft workouts in 2019.

Especially after he’d shot 86.4% from the field against them in that half-decade, posting a 175 OffRtg in 10 meetings.

Luka Doncic, as it turned out, had been looking for something, too.

  • 🗣 Said Doncic to after the Trade Deadline: “I think we got two really good players. We added some size to our team and a backup center, which I wanted like three years already.”

Dream Come True: So when the Mavs traded for Gafford and P.J. Washington at the Trade Deadline, everyone got their wish(es).

And almost exactly three months later, with Luka laboring and Kyrie Irving having an off-shooting night in Game 2 – down 1-0 to the top-seeded Thunder – Gafford and Washington showed why.

  • In Game 2, the pair combined for 42 points – 29 from Washington – and a 62.5% clip from the floor, as the Mavs won 119-110
  • Towers Of Power: In Washington’s first postseason and Gafford’s second, Washington ranks third on the team in NetRtg and mpg, while Gafford ranks second on the team in DefRtg (min. 20 mpg)
  • 🗣 Said Washington on showcasing his game in the Playoffs: “It means everything. Obviously we have a lot of great players on this team, and everybody’s been welcoming since day 1. It feels like a family atmosphere for me.”

Instant Impact: Luka and Kyrie’s partnership stole the headlines for most of the second half of the year. But Gafford and Washington quietly revolutionized the Mavs.

  • Only. Team. Ever. Led by the two, the Mavs became the only team in NBA history to jump from 25th or worse in rebounds & blocks per game in their first 52 games … to 10th or better in their last 30
  • Jumps Everywhere: Dallas went from 22nd in DefRtg before the Deadline to 7th after it, 26th in Def Rebound Rate to 6th … and after allowing teams to shoot 1.5% better than average, Dallas held them to 1.9% below their average after the Deadline
  • Not Slowing Down: The Mavs lead all Playoffs teams in blocks per game, and sit 8th in DefRtg
  • 🗣️ Said Mavs coach Jason Kidd: “Our defense changed when they got here. They’re not gonna complain. You don’t have to run a play for them. They want to do whatever it takes for the team to win.”
  • Kidd: “We’ve said this since they’ve gotten here, over and over – we’ve been consistent that they’ve changed the culture. Our defense came when they arrived.”

With the series heading to Dallas, who’s going up 2-1? Find out on ABC at 3:30 ET.


Celtics at Cavs, Game 3 | 8:30 ET, ABC | Tied, 1-1

Donovan Mitchell’s team had fallen behind, 1-0, to a higher-seeded power – a team featuring one of the NBA’s premier duos.

In Game 2, he took over, going for 23 of his 29 points in the 2nd half to tie the series and steal home-court advantage.

The Year was 2018. He was a 21-year-old rookie. And over the next four games, as his fifth-seeded Jazz beat Russ & PG’s OKC Thunder, he took his first steps toward building a reputation as one of his generation’s greatest Playoff scorers.

All Time, Too: Mitchell ranks 6th in Playoffs ppg (28.0) in NBA history for players who’ve played a minimum of 50 games.

  • Ahead Of Him: Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Kevin Durant, Jerry West and LeBron James
  • Just Behind: Nikola Jokic, Elgin Baylor, George Gervin and Steph Curry

On Thursday, when his team needed him to lead, he came through yet again – dropping 16 of his 29 points in the 3rd quarter and hitting three straight buckets to start the 4th to send the Cavs to a 1-1 series tie with Boston.

This Year: Mitchell ranks third in Playoff scoring among players still active, and sixth overall, at 29.2 per game. And as the Cavs have seen up and down contributions from the lineup (54.7 FG% in Game 2, 41.1% in Game 1), the 5-time All-Star’s led the way.

  • More Than A Scorer: Spida’s contributions go beyond buckets, too – he’s sixth in PIE among active players in this year’s postseason, and 10th overall (min. 30 mpg)
  • Mr. Reliable: He’s also second in usage rate among actives, and third overall, getting the Cavs to their first Conf Semis win (and appearance) since 2018
  • Spida & Bron: Mitchell’s just the second Cav ever with 25+ pts in 6 straight Playoff games, after LeBron most recently did it 9 times in 2018
  • Clutch Gene: Among still-active players who’ve played at least 8 mpg in the 4th Q, he ranks 4th in PIE in the final quarter – and sixth overall
  • 🗣 Said Mitchell About Game 2: “At halftime I was just like, ’I don’t plan on coming out.’ That was the mindset. [Coach Bickerstaff] asked me if I needed (a break) and I was like, ‘I’m good.’”

Work Cut Out: Mitchell & the Cavs’ task now? Give the Celtics something that’s happened just four times this season: back-to-back losses. See who goes up 2-1 on ABC at 8:30 ET.