Jayson Tatum Boston Celtics Jayson Tatum against the Pacers. (Trevor Ruszkowski-USA Today Sports.)

The Boston Celtics’ four-game sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals unsurprisingly slipped in viewership from last season, but not as drastically as you might imagine.

The series averaged 6.29 million viewers, way down from last year’s Celtics-Heat series (7.4 million) on TNT. That series went seven games.

ESPN’s release notes that this year’s series was up from each Eastern Conference Finals from 2019-2021, which all went six games.

No game of this year’s series really shined. Game 1 averaged 6.43 million viewers (including the NBA Unplugged with Kevin Hart alternate broadcast on ESPN2), which was the most-watched Game 1 of an Eastern Conference Finals since 2018. Game 2 slipped to 5.64 million, down single digits from last year. Game 3 was flat from the Celtics-Heat series last season with 6.48 million viewers on ABC, and Game 4 was slightly up with 6.628 million viewers. The series stopping in its tracks there prevented it from possibly coming close to matching last season’s average.

There will not be a sweep in the Western Conference thanks to Minnesota’s win on Tuesday night, which can only help the series’ prospects going forward. Across its first three games, TNT was averaging 6.85 million viewers for the Mavericks-Timberwolves series, down 12% from 2023 and 1% from 2022. The former of those series ended in a sweep, while the latter ended in five games.

Given that the series ended in a sweep, and that the small-market Pacers upset the New York Knicks to flip over the “Boston vs New York” apple cart, nobody should be surprised there was a decline. On a game-to-game basis, one game was up high single digits from last year, one was down, one was minimally up, and one was flat. All in all, swapping in the Pacers for the Heat was mostly a push, but the series running four games instead of seven was the real dagger.

[ESPN, Sports Media Watch]

About Joe Lucia

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