In what is defiantly good news for the NBA, Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Cleveland Cavailers and the Boston Celtics averaged a 6.9 household Nielsen rating, up 70 percent from the game airing in the year-ago time period (San Antonio Spurs-Utah Jazz Western Conference Semifinal).
The Celtics won, and they are facing the Detroit Pistons in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, which begins tonight on ESPN (on now as I speak.) It’s the first time these two teams have met in the ECF since 1988, when Isiah Thomas and the “bad boy” Pistons eliminated Larry Bird’s Celtics to go on to the NBA Finals, where they lost to Magic Johnson and the Los Angeles Lakers (the Pistons would sweep the Lakers in the 1989 finals.)
ABC plans to air Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday.
Meanwhile, The Lakers are playing the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals on TNT, which begins Wednesday. If the Lakers and Celtics advance to the NBA Finals, it could net a ratings windfall for ABC, which along with ESPN and TNT, have seen rating increases in key demos airing NBA fare this year, reversing a years-long ratings decline. The Lakers and Celtics have a storied rivalry, meeting in the NBA Finals three times in the 1980’s, with the Lakers winning in 1985 and 1987, and Boston taking the prize in 1984. The Lakers-Celtics finals were a big ratings draw for CBS (who held the rights to the NBA back in the day.)