Off to its best start in four years, the NBA Finals slam-dunked the competish for ABC on two nights last week, but a more consistent Fox — paced by its midweek reality hits — led once again among young adults.

Fox made it 22 consecutive victories in the adults 18-49 demo, as “Hell’s Kitchen” and both nights of “So You Think You Can Dance” delivered the week’s top numbers outside of hoops action.

According to Nielsen estimates that include same-night DVR playback, Fox’s 2.5 rating/8 share in 18-49 topped ABC’s 2.2/7, with NBC third (1.9/6), followed by CBS (1.7/5), Univision (1.3/4) and USA (0.8/2).

Fox also led in adults 25-54 (2.6/8) and persons 12-34 (2.3/8), while CBS led in total viewers (7.2 million vs. 6.5 million for runner-up Fox).

Improved numbers this year for both the NBA Finals and hockey’s Stanley Cup Finals on NBC helped the broadcast networks achieve something they haven’t done at all in 2008: outperform the same week of a year ago. The major nets and CW were up a combined 5% in both 18-49 and total viewers vs. the second summer frame of 2007.

Meanwhile, final averages for the 2007-08 season that include all same-week DVR playback show that Fox won by a slightly larger margin than previously reported. The net’s 4.3 rating in 18-49 reps a 5% improvement over the 2006-07 season and was a whopping 43% ahead of ABC and CBS (both at a 3.0).

Looking at Fox’s week, “Hell’s Kitchen” (4.4/12 in 18-49, 9.36 million viewers overall) continues to impress, whipping up its best scores to date for an episode that wasn’t a season finale or that didn’t follow “American Idol.” Tuesday lead-in “Moment of Truth” also led its timeslot (2.7/9, 2.76m), and the net was also tough with “So You Think You Can Dance” on both Wednesday (3.7/11 in 18-49, 9.56m) and Thursday (3.3/10, 9.25m).

Fox also continues to do pretty well with its few scripted repeats, repped in the week’s top 10 by “House” (3.0/8 in 18-49, 9.44m) and in the top 15 by “Family Guy” (2.5/7, 5.15m).

ABC moved up to second on the strength of the strong NBA Finals matchup between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers. Sunday’s game two (5.5/16 in 18-49, 13.50m) edged out Thursday’s game one (5.4/17, 13.38m) to rank as the week’s top-rated program. And through two games, this year’s finals were up about 50% vs. last year’s lackluster San Antonio-Cleveland series and the best for the league in four years (since the Lakers faced the Detroit Pistons).

If the series reaches at least a sixth game, that would give ABC an excellent shot at snapping Fox’s winning streak in the current week.

The Alphabet didn’t have a whole lot else working outside of hoops last week, with “The Bachelorette” its top draw (2.2/6 in 18-49, 6.46m).

NBC was led by the final two games of the Stanley Cup Finals, including Wednesday’s sixth and final game (2.9/8 in 18-49, 6.78m), which ranked eighth for the week and delivered the best numbers for any Stanley Cup telecast in five years.

Net’s premiere of horror anthology series “Fear Itself” didn’t do much on Thursday (2.0/6 in 18-49, 5.26m), airing behind “Last Comic Standing” (2.1/7, 4.97m), which was up week to week but remains on the low side.

On Monday of the current week, NBC’s “Nashville Star” got off to a decent start (2.2/6 in 18-49, 6.70m), setting series records in its first season on the Peacock after five years on cabler USA.

CBS was paced by laffer repeat “Two and a Half Men” (3.1/9 in 18-49, 9.81m) and Thursday’s solid premiere for “Swingtown” (2.8/8, 8.57m), which built on its “CSI” lead-in and finished second to basketball in its timeslot (Daily Variety, June 9).

Sunday also saw “Million Dollar Password” win its hour for a second straight week (2.1/6, 9.62m). On the negative side, the Eye’s movie burnoff continued with its new version of “Sybil,” starring Jessica Lange, which mustered a mere 0.6/2 in 18-49 and 3.16 million viewers overall on Saturday.

USA, thanks to “WWE Raw” and Sunday dramas “Law & Order: CI” (1.3/4, 4.53m) and “In Plain Sight” (1.3/4, 4.39m), was primetime’s leader in adults 18-49, adults 25-54 and total viewers. Opposite much tougher competish, “Plain Sight” slid by 28% in 18-49 from its strong week-earlier premiere (1.8/5).

“Plain Sight” was topped by the second-season preem of Lifetime’s “Army Wives” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 4.52m), which was cable’s top-rated primetime program for the week in 18-49. It surged 58% over its series premiere of last summer (1.2/3) and delivered the largest overall aud for any drama telecast in net history (Daily Variety, June 10).

History Channel scored Sunday as well with the season premiere of “Ice Road Truckers” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 3.85m), which was cable’s No. 3 show of the week in 18-49 and No. 2 in adults 25-54 (1.9/5).