Even without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers are a draw for ESPN. Los Angeles' first game of the 2013 playoffs, against the San Antonio Spurs, drew a 4.6 overnight rating, the best opening weekend rating for a game on ABC since 2003 (which once again featured the Lakers, coming off of their third straight NBA Championship taking on the Timberwolves).
It'll be interesting to see how the ratings respond for Game 2 on TNT on Wednesday night after the Spurs essentially controlled the entire game against the Lakers, going up by as many as 16 in the fourth quarter before eventually winning by 12. For Lakers fans, the most entertaining part of the game might have been Bryant's tweets, which showed a solid level of insight that can only help with his post-playing career, whenever that may come.
The first round playoff games for the Knicks and Clippers also delivered locally, with the Knicks' Game 1 battle with the Celtics drawing a 7.9 rating on ESPN, its largest since 2003 on any network. On the other hand, the Clippers-Grizzlies Game 1 drew a 6.3 overnight in Los Angeles, the second highest for a first round game on ESPN. Unfortunately for ESPN, their first game of the Heat-Bucks series is Game 4 on Sunday, scheduled for ABC. That could be the final game of the series after the beatdown that Miami laid down on Milwaukee on Saturday, meaning that ESPN and ABC could have to look to other teams to bring in great ratings numbers.