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Dan Devine

News flash: America likes watching the Celtics and Lakers play

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You might be wondering why Kobe Bryant(notes) and Derek Fisher(notes) are so excited that they can't even decide whether to give one another a high-five or a pound. (Ron Artest(notes) is clearly concerned about it.) Well, wonder no longer: They're psyched because the overnight ratings are in, and according to the fine people at Nielsen, the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are huge. We're talking "bigger than CBS' comedy lineup but not as big as 'American Idol'" huge.

From the Associated Press:

The opener of the Celtics-Lakers NBA finals matched the teams' meeting two years ago for the highest preliminary rating for a Game 1 since 2004.

Los Angeles' 102-89 win Thursday night on ABC earned a 10.4 overnight rating, up 17 percent from the 8.9 for last year's Magic-Lakers series.

A 10.4 mark is a far cry from the heady Jordan-fueled heydays of 1998 — that year's Chicago Bulls/Utah Jazz matchup earned an 18.7 household rating, according to TVbytheNumbers.com's handy 35-year breakdown of NBA Finals Nielsen ratings — but it gets the league back into double digits, which is nice.

Obviously, it's completely unsurprising that Game 1 stomped both last year's model and the 2007 finals opener between the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers (which netted an 8.0) — though some may complain about how unoriginal it is to see green and gold slam together in the finals for the 12th time, familiarity with the squads and their stars breeds contempt (both on the sidelines and in the teams' fan bases) and increased viewership. The whining is fine, but whether or not folks were going to tune in was never in doubt.

Also of note: It's pretty Eerie, Indiana that Game 1 of the 2010 NBA Finals earned the exact same overnight rating as Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals, which (as you may have heard) also pitted the C's and L's. Almost enough to make you think that there's some dark, mysterious force behind the scenes with his hand on the scales, pushing toward the most lucrative possible outcome. If you were inclined to believe in that sort of conspiracy theory, I mean. Which we're not. (Please spare us from your wrath, O Great One.)

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