The Houston Rockets' Game 6 win over the Los Angeles Lakers last night became the most-watched basketball game in ESPN history.
The total sports network's coverage of the May 14 contest that sent the teams to Staples Center Sunday for the decisive seventh game of the NBA second-round series scored a 5.4 rating, 5.31 million households and 7.35 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research data.
The game topped ESPN's previous hoops mark of the 4.99 million households and 6.6 million viewers it scored with its coverage of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on May 31, 2006, according to network officials.
The Thursday night telecast is the highest-rated and most-viewed NBA playoff game on cable in 2009, topping the 6.99 million who watched TNT's Game 7 coverage on May 2 of the opening-round battle won by the Boston Celtics over the Chicago Bulls.
Moreover, the game was ESPN's highest-rated and most-viewed program in Nielsen's 2009 (Dec. 30, 2008), said network officials.
ESPN's six conference semifinal telecasts averaged a 3.5 rating, 3,46 million households and 4.58 million viewers, increases of 9% (3.2), 12% (3.10 million) and 16% (3.95 million), respectively, over last year's seven conference semifinal telecasts.
ABC will tip off Game 7 coverage of Lakers-Rockets on Sunday May 17 at 3:30 p.m. (ET).