ABC poised for ratings rebound

Lakers-Celtics matchup destined to draw eyes

NEW YORK -- 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 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," Doug White, senior director of programming and acquisition at ESPN, said Sunday.

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

This also gives the NBA a chance to rebound from record low ratings for the finals last year. The signs are already looking good: Post-season basketball ratings on ESPN, ABC and TNT are all up double-digits over last year.
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