Lakers-Celtics sets ABC up for ratings rebound

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After record low ratings for the NBA Finals last year, the league is poised to bounce back big with a dream matchup: the Los Angeles Lakers against the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics did away with the Detroit Pistons on Friday night to advance to the Finals against the Lakers. The best-of-seven series will air on ABC beginning at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Boston.

Although it's the first time the Celtics have made the Finals since the Reagan administration, the Lakers-Celtics matchup is just what the ratings doctor ordered: A high-powered, star-filled matchup (Kobe Bryant vs. Paul Pierce) as well as a rematch of past East Coast and West Coast powerhouses. It's also the reignition of a Celtics-Lakers rivalry that stretches back to the 1960s and the days of Bill Russell and Jerry West.

"To get a matchup between two of arguably the most storied franchises in the league is really a great opportunity for us and a great opportunity for the fans to see some great basketball," said Doug White, senior director of programming and acquisition at ESPN.

ABC is making the most of the opportunity, offering a half-hour "Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game Night" before each of the games. Thursday's begins at 8 p.m. EDT.

It also gives the NBA a chance to rebound from last year's low ratings. The signs already are looking good: Post-season basketball ratings on ESPN, ABC and TNT are up double-digits over last year. (partialdiff)
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