Through five games, the average margin of victory in the Eastern Conference Finals has been 18 points. Yet ratings are soaring.
The Celtics-Cavaliers matchup is ESPN’s highest-rated conference finals in six years, the network announced Thursday. Even Game 5, a 13-point Celtics win that was never in doubt from the start, was up 30 percent from the same game last year. (Locally, Game 5 drew a 14.4 rating, per the Globe’s Chad Finn.)
These numbers are telling for a few reasons. In terms of the big picture, it’s a huge win for the NBA, which continues to experience viewership growth in this era of declining ratings. Overall, ratings this postseason are up 17 percent on ESPN in comparison to last year.
This is especially remarkable, because the games have been awful. That means the national audience is tuning in for attractions besides entertaining basketball. The obvious answer is LeBron James, who is expected to opt-out of his contract this summer and become a free agent. There is always lots of intrigue attached to James, but there seems to be even more this year, because it could be his last season in Cleveland.
Plus, there is something captivating about watching the best player in the world try to almost single-handedly take his lackluster supporting cast and head coach to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year. Overall, James has qualified for seven consecutive Finals, winning three of them.
There’s little doubt the series would be more compelling if Kyrie Irving were healthy, given his history with James. But his absence has transformed the Celtics into underdogs. Throw in Gordon Hayward’s season-ending injury, and the Celtics are perceived as the NBA’s version of the Mighty Ducks. And they’re one win away from potentially ending James’ Cavaliers career.
The Celtics’ success is transforming the layman’s understanding of the NBA. As it turns out, the best player doesn’t always win, and the coach can really matter. Their postseason run may forever change how the modern NBA is viewed.
The largest audience in years is tuning in to see it happen.
Full article @ Ratings for Celtics-Cavs are soaring, despite awful games
Source: GreenStreet Blog