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Game 5 of NBA Finals draws 18.5 million

Series averaged 16.9 million, slightly up from last year

The fifth and final game of the NBA Finals drew 18.5 million viewers Thursday night, making it the most-watched game of the series and a notch above last year’s game five.

The series, won by the Miami Heat, averaged 16.9 million viewers, up from the 16.1 million who watched last year’s Miami-Dallas matchup. It was the most-viewed NBA Finals since 2004, when the Detroit Pistons defeated the Los Angeles Lakers.

In the 18-49 demo, Thursday’s game drew a 7.1 rating/20 share. That was actually slightly down from the fourth game (7.4/22) of the series.

While Heat fans were excited to see their team win the championship in five games, ABC was clearly hoping the series would have continued. A sixth and seventh game would have brought more eyeballs than the first five games. In last year’s Miami-Dallas game six, a healthy 23.8 million viewers tuned in.

Also helped by ABC’s NBA coverage were the pre-game “Jimmy Kimmel Live” primetime specials. “Live” averaged 3.1 million viewers over the five games and 1.0/4 in the demo, both substantial increases from “Kimmel’s” perf in its latenight timeslot.