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NBA Finals airball in ratings

Six-game series drew an average of about 9.6 mil

In case you missed it, the NBA Finals are over.

ABC’s first crack at pro basketball’s championship in 30 years ended Sunday, with the series between the San Antonio Spurs and New Jersey Nets finishing as the least-watched primetime Finals ever.

Reliable preliminary Nielsen nationals for Sunday’s game weren’t available Monday, but the Spurs’ series-clinching victory over the Nets figures to come in between 11 and 12 million viewers.

This means the six-game series will have drawn an average of about 9.6 million, a stunning dropoff of more than 35% from last year’s four-game Lakers-Nets series on NBC, which had ranked as the least-watched primetime NBA Finals ever (15.7 million).

The NBA Finals peaked with an average audience of 29 million for the Chicago-Utah series in 1998 (Michael Jordan’s final championship with the Bulls).

Sunday’s game, in which the underdog Nets led until the fourth quarter, delivered a series-best 46.6 household rating/65 share in San Antonio. It was virtually ignored in some of the top 25 markets, though, settling for less than a 10 overnight share in Boston, Minneapolis, Denver and Pittsburgh.

The overnight metered-market rating Sunday of 9.1/15 was down a steep 47% from the last Game 6 of the NBA Finals (17.3/28 for Lakers-Pacers in 2000 on NBC).

Basketball wasn’t the only sport to take a hit Sunday, as NBC’s coverage of golf’s U.S. Open (5.6/13 in overnights) was down 40% from last year’s 9.3/21 (with Tiger Woods winning). Event became a runaway victory for Jim Furyk, with Woods not among the top finishers.

Saturday’s coverage (5.3/13 in overnights) was off 17% year-to-year.

On the entertainment side Sunday, new CBS laffer “Charlie Lawrence” was D.O.A. (prelim 0.9/3 in adults 18-49, 4.9 million viewers overall). It landed a distant fourth or lower in all key categories in its 8:30 slot, virtually matching the demo score of its lead-in, a repeat “Becker” (1.0/4).

Net didn’t have much confidence in the Nathan Lane comedy, opting to air it in the summer rather than during the traditional television season.

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