Starting 5 Daily Newsletter

Starting 5, May 18: Clear your Sunday plans for two Game 7s

The Pacers defended home against the Knicks to force Game 7 back at The Garden. Plus, tonight’s Thunder-Mavs Game 6 in Dallas.

What’s better than a Game 7 on a Sunday? How about two?

Knicks-Pacers at MSG. Nuggets-Wolves in Denver.

How about a 3rd Game 7 this round? The Thunder and Mavs will decide that tonight in Dallas.


Pacers Force Game 7: Indy stayed perfect at home to set up an epic series finale at MSG

Round 3: Knicks-Pacers will be decided by Game 7 for the 3rd time in the rivalry’s history

The Closers: Kyrie and Luka have put up historic marks in series-clinching games

Win Or Go Home: OKC’s season is on the line in tonight’s Game 6 in Dallas

First Look: The path to Nuggets-Wolves Game 7 and both teams’ history in such games


Last night’s scores & what to watch today.

Tonight in Dallas (8 ET, ABC), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder aim to keep their breakout season alive as they face elimination for the first time against Luka, Kyrie and the Mavs.

2 Game 7s Sunday (!!) Pacers-Knicks at 3:30 ET on ABC, Wolves-Nuggets at 8 ET on TNT. Catch up in the playoffs Hub.


Unbeaten in Indy: With their season on the line, the Pacers did what they’ve done all postseason – win at home.

Powered by an electric crowd and led by Pascal Siakam’s 25 points, the Pacers raced past the Knicks to a 116-103 win to send the series back to New York for Game 7. | Recap

  • The Pacers are now 6-0 at home this postseason, their best home start to a Playoff run since 2013. Indy is plus-88 in six games at Gainbridge Fieldhouse compared to minus-64 on the road
  • 🗣️ Tyrese Haliburton: “Us being down 3-2 the pressure was on us… we had to come out and play harder for 48 minutes and I think we have to maintain that going into Game 7.”
  • Team Effort: In addition to Siakam, the Pacers had five more players score in double figures, led by Myles Turner (17 pts, 8 reb). Haliburton, Andrew Nembhard and T.J. McConnell each added 15
  • Sharing is Caring: Indy’s 35 assists were the 2nd-most in franchise Playoff history, trailing only the 38 they had in the 1st round. Indy is 18-4 this season (regular and Playoffs) when posting 35+ assists

Game-Changing Run: Midway through the 2nd quarter, the game had seen 10 ties, eight lead changes and no lead larger than five points. The Pacers closed the half on a 17-5 run to build a 10-point lead.

  • After NY scored the first five points of the 3rd quarter, Indy responded with a 10-2 burst to increase the lead to 13 and never saw it dip below double digits the rest of the night

Brunson Joins Knicks Legends: After struggling in the 1st half (5 pts, 2-13 FG), Brunson finished with 31 points – his 7th 30+ point game of the Playoffs – becoming the 5th Knick to score 400+ pts in a single postseason (404 and counting).

  • He Joins: Patrick Ewing (547 pts, 1994), Willis Reed (429, 1970), Bernard King (417, 1984) and Latrell Sprewell (407, 1999)

Eyes On Hart: Josh Hart played through discomfort for 31 minutes before exiting for good with abdominal soreness in the 4th quarter.

  • 🗣️ Brunson: “I would assume he’s playing. It’s Game 7.”
  • 🗣️ Isaiah Hartenstein: “He’ll do whatever to play. If his leg’s not falling off… he’ll probably play.”


For the 8th time ever and the first time in 29 years, the Knicks will host a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden.

And for the 3rd straight time, it will be against the Pacers.

🗣️ Knicks Coach Tom Thibodeau on Game 7: “This is the nature of the playoffs… this is what you play for… if you love competition, this is it.”

After splitting their first two Game 7s in 1994 and 1995, respectively, the long-awaited rubber match goes down on Sunday.

Let’s rewind to the mid 90s and relive two epic series finales that solidified Knicks-Pacers as a classic NBA rivalry.

1994 East Finals: Ewing did it all (24 pts, 22 reb, 7ast, 5 blk) – including a putback dunk to put NY up for good with 27 seconds left – in a 94-90 win to reach the Finals for the first time in 21 years.

  • Ewing remains the only player to put up a 20/20/5/5 game in a Game 7 and one of only five players to do so in a playoff game, joining Tim Duncan (3x), Shaq, Kareem and Bill Walton

1995 East Semifinals: Reggie Miller led the Pacers with 29 points and three 3s, while Rik Smits added 19 as Indy held on for a 97-95 win.

  • Patrick Ewing (29 pts, 14 reb) led the Knicks, but missed a game-tying running finger roll at the buzzer to seal the win for Indy

Knicks Game 7 History: Sunday’s game will be the eighth Game 7 for the Knicks at MSG (they are 5-2 in their previous seven) and 16th overall Game 7.

  • New York is 7-8 in Game 7s with their most recent coming in the 2000 East Semifinals against Miami (an 83-82 Knicks win)

Pacers Game 7 History: Sunday will be the 10th Game 7 in Pacers’ NBA history and their ninth to come on the road.

  • Indiana is 3-6 in Game 7s with their most recent coming in the 2018 first round against Cleveland (a 105-101 Pacers’ loss)


Eyes On The Prize: When the Mavs try to close out the Thunder in Game 6 tonight (8 ET, ABC), they’ll have two of the game’s elite closeout performers on their side.

On May 3 in Dallas, Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic combined for 58 points as they won their first playoff series as teammates – closing out the LA Clippers in six games.

  • Kyrie: 30 pts, 5 3s, 4 ast, 2 stl, 2 blk
  • Luka: 28 pts, 13 ast, 7 reb
  • The duo combined to create 87 of Dallas’ 114 points (76.3%) with the points they scored or created for others with their assists
  • Tonight in Dallas, they’ll look to clinch their second series together — once again at home, this time against OKC

A win would make Kyrie 14-0 in series-clinching games – extending his own NBA record for best-win percentage in closeout games.

  • The Numbers: 23.2 pts, 3.9 reb. 4.7 ast, 2.2 3s, 48.3% FG
  • The Moment: There are clutch shots, then there’s the shot Kyrie made in the final minute of Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals

A win would give Luka four straight closeout wins, increase his record to 4-2 all-time, and give him a chance to add to his already historic stats in clinching games.

  • The Numbers: 32.4 pts, 8.2 reb, 10 ast, 3.6 3s, 47.5% FG

Top 4 Scorer: Luka’s 32.4 ppg ranks 4th among all players that have played in at least five clinching games.

  • The List: Donovan Mitchell (34.5), Michael Jordan (34.2), Allen Iverson (33.3), Doncic (32.4)

Top 4 Playmaker: Luka’s 10 apg ties him with Oscar Robertson for 3rd among all players that have played in at least five clinching games.

  • The List: Magic Johnson (12.3), John Stockton (11.0), Robertson (10.0), Doncic (10.0)

One Of One: Luka is the only name that appears on both lists as his combination of scoring, playmaking and rebounding in series-clinching games is unmatched.


Proving Point: Tonight, a team that’s made a habit of exceeding expectations all season long faces its toughest test – a win-or-go-home Game 6 in Dallas (8 ET, ABC) against two of the best closers in the game.

  • Entering the season, not a single NBA GM predicted OKC to finish 3rd or higher in the West — they finished 1st at 57-25
  • After three straight losses in early April, OKC lost its conference lead to the Nuggets and Timberwolves with five games left — the Thunder won out to reclaim the top seed
  • Entering Game 4 against the Mavs, the Thunder needed a road win to avoid falling into a 3-1 hole — they erased a 14-point, 2nd-half deficit in Dallas to tie the series at 2-2

Now, to keep their season alive, OKC will have to solve a Dallas defense that’s swarmed – and subdued – one of the NBA’s top offenses.

  • The Mavs have held the Thunder to 104.0 ppg (16.1 pts below their 3rd ranked regular-season average) and 43.8% shooting (6.1% below their 2nd ranked percentage)
  • In Game 5, OKC tried to spark its offense by starting Isaiah Joe, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (4th straight 30+ point game) was the only Thunder player to score more than 13

  • Potential Help: Is Jalen Williams – OKC’s 2nd-leading scorer this season at 19.1 ppg – due for a breakout game coming off his two lowest-scoring games (14 and 12 pts) of the playoffs?
  • The Rookie: OKC is 18-5 this season (1-0 in Playoffs) when Chet Holmgren scores 20+ pts. He’s averaged 18.5 in OKC’s two wins this series, but just 12.3 in their three losses
  • 🗣️ Coach Mark Daigneault: “I do think getting used to how they’re playing us is something we have to learn and evolve [from]. The opponent is playing against you and improving at playing against you. That’s what’s happening right now for both teams.”

Staying The Course: A team that’s defied the odds since October – and one that’s no stranger to rallying, after leading the league in double-digit comebacks – has preached poise heading into Saturday.

  • 🗣️ SGA: “Our mood won’t change, our mentality won’t change. It’s one game at a time.
  • 🗣️ J-Dub on how the Thunder feel: “Confident. Like we have all year.”


Hey, Coach Malone, what are the two greatest words in sports?

Game 7.

When? Sunday, May 19 (8 ET, TNT).

Where? Denver (Ball Arena).

For What? A trip to the Western Conference Finals.

This heavyweight series between two of the best in the West has been a rollercoaster ride with ups and downs for both sides, and it all reaches a peak on Sunday.

  • Game 2: The Wolves beat the Nuggets 106-80 in Denver to take a 2-0 series lead back to Minnesota
  • Game 4: The Nuggets rallied back with two straight road victories, including a 115-107 win to tie the series 2-2
  • Game 5: Nikola Jokic (40 pts, 7 reb, 13 ast, 0 to) turned in a signature performance for the Nuggets’ third straight dub, giving Denver a 3-2 lead
  • Game 6: The Wolves pulled off one of the biggest wins in playoff history, beating the Nuggets 115-70 in Minnesota to set up a highly-anticipated Game 7

Despite running the table last year, the Nuggets haven’t played in a Game 7 since 2020.

  • In that game, Jokic posted a triple-double (16 pts, 22 reb, 13 ast), and the Nuggets defeated the Clippers, 104-89, in the West Semis
  • Joker is 3-1 in Game 7s – two in 2019, two in 2020 – with averages of 24.0 ppg, 16.0 rpg and 7.3 apg

Meanwhile, the Wolves have only played in one Game 7. Ever.

The date? May 19, 2004 — exactly 20 years from Sunday.

  • In that game, the Wolves beat the Kings, 83-80, to reach the West Finals – their deepest postseason run in franchise history

🗣️ Anthony Edwards: “I’m super pumped for it. I’m super happy. I’m ready to play.”

🗣️ Jokic: “It can go one way or another. I think that’s why the series is interesting…they blow us out… we blow them out… hopefully, we blow them out Sunday,” he said with a laugh.