May 29, 2022; Miami, Florida, USA; Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) reacts after winning the Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP trophy after game seven of the 2022 eastern conference finals at FTX Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into the NBA Finals, the league is hitting multi-year playoff highs.

On Tuesday, ESPN announced that the Eastern Conference Finals averaged 6.978 million viewers, the league’s most-watched ECF since 2018. This comes on the heels of Turner’s announcement that the Western Conference Finals averaged 6.7 million viewers, its most-watched Conference Finals since 2018.

Due to the NBA alternating the conference that each network broadcasts in the playoffs, this is only ESPN’s best Conference Final since 2019. That year, the company had the West, and the Warriors-Blazers matchup averaged 7.6 million viewers per Sports Media Watch.

The seven-game ECF ended on a high, with Game 7 between the Celtics and Heat averaging 9.875 million viewers, the most-watched non-NBA Finals game since Christmas Day 2018 (Lakers-Warriors, 10.21 million per Sports Media Watch).

With the Finals starting this week, expectations are probably high within the league that viewership will at least top the last two years. The 2020 Lakers-Heat series drew a record-low viewership, and 2021’s Bucks-Suns matchup drew the fourth-lowest viewership in the last 30 or so years. The series getting back to its usual June spot on the calendar will help a lot, as will the presence of a pair of decorated teams in the Celtics and Warriors. But really, the length and competitiveness of this series (as is standard) will be the main determining factors. A tight seven-game series will draw a whole lot more viewers than a four-blowout sweep, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that.

[ESPN, Sports Media Watch]

About Joe Lucia

I hate your favorite team. I also sort of hate most of my favorite teams.