Will tonight's Game 6 matchup between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat set a new basketball viewership mark for cable?
It's possible considering the strong tune-in for Games 4 and 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, which Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen and crew can clinch tonight and set up a championship round appointment with the Oklahoma City Thunder on June 12 on ABC.
Game 4, an overtime affair that saw the Cs draw even with LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and the rest of the Heat, scored the highest overnight rating in cable history. Peaking with a 10.7 rating in the extra session, ESPN's June 3 telecast dunked a 7.9 overnight rating, the best for a NBA playoff game on cable since records began in 2003, according to Nielsen. In Beantown, the telecast drew a 20.7 rating, the highest ever for an NBA playoff game in the market, and a 19.8 rating in Miami, which ranked as the third-highest in that DMA.
Ultimately, Game 4 became the best basketball telecast ever for the worldwide leader, garnering 11.07 million watchers, according to Nielsen. The June 3 telecast now stands as ESPN's top basketball game ever and the second-best hoops mark in cable history behind the 11.11 million who saw the Chicago Bulls run over the Heat in Game 1 of the 2011 ECF on TNT on May 15, 2011.
Game 5 of Celts-Heat on June 5 pulled a 7.2 cable rating, equating to 7.18 million households and almost 10.3 million viewers on average, according to Nielsen. The viewership and household impressions -- stoked by a 19.0 in Boston and a 19.5 in Miami, the third- and second-highest NBA ratings in the respective markets to date -- rank as the fifth highest of all time for the pro hoops league on cable, and No. 2 on ESPN.
With much of New England and South Beach figuring to check out the action and hoops fans from around the country curious to see whether the NBA' winningest franchise can put itself in position to claim an 18th title, or if James can keep the Heat's title hopes alive, a new ratings mark could occur, provided it's a tight contest.