Wednesday’s fifth and final game of the NBA Western Conference Finals between Golden State and Houston on ESPN drew the network’s largest audience for the sport in three years.
According to Nielsen national estimates, the Golden State Warriors’ 104-90 victory over the Houston Rockets averaged 8.89 million viewers on Wednesday. It was the night’s No. 1 show on television in adults 18-49 (its 3.6 rating more than doubled anything else) as well as total viewers.
The 8.89 million makes last night’s game the most-watched of these playoffs, besting Sunday’s Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals between Cleveland and Atlanta on TNT (7.66 million).
This was also the largest audience for an NBA game on an ESPN network since Game 7 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals between Miami and Boston — impressive considering it was only Game 5, and a good sign for ABC heading into the Finals. The network again has exclusive television rights to the championship round, which doesn’t begin until next Thursday.
One long-suffering fan base will be rewarded for their patience: Golden State has only one championship in the modern era (and that came 40 years ago), and Cleveland is making its second Finals appearance and has yet to win a championship.
In hockey’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, meanwhile, Wednesday’s Game 6 of the NHL Western Conference Finals between the Chicago Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks averaged 2.38 million viewers — the second largest audience of the postseason on NBCSN behind Game 7 of the Capitals-Rangers second-round series (2.71 million).
This is the first time in 15 years that both of pro hockey’s Conference Finals have been extended to seven games. NBC Sports Network will telecast the Eastern Finals matchup between Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers on Friday, and NBC will have the Western Finals contest between Anaheim and Chicago, with both games starting a little after 8 p.m. ET. The announce team of Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk will travel from coast to coast to cover both games.