A triple-overtime thriller lifted NBC to monster numbers for its NBA Finals shootout in Nielsen overnight markets Sunday, while national results for Friday’s game two also remained well ahead of last year’s pace.

Sunday’s contest — which the Phoenix Suns won 129-121 over the Chicago Bulls — cleared the boards and the competition with a 19.4 rating, 34 share overall, peaking with a 26.5/42 from 10-10:30 p.m. ET.

Even if those figures drop nationally, as they did on Friday, the result will still far surpass any game last year, when the top result was a 16.0/29.

Game two scored as well with a 14.6/29 — a 7% improvement over the corresponding showdown last year, after game one bettered the ’92 opener by a whopping 24%.

From NBC’s perspective, however, the best news may be that Phoenix’s win Sunday averts the possibility of a four-game sweep, always a killer in terms of lost advertising revenue. Last year’s series went six games, while the ’91 edition ran only five.

NBC has now won Sunday three out of the last seven weeks — thanks to basketball, its “Ambush at Waco” vidpic and “Fried Green Tomatoes”– after a nine-month drought that followed the Summer Olympics interrupted only by Super Bowl Sunday in January.

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