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ESPN Scores Another Ratings Mark With Lakers-Nuggets

Another week, another record-breaking NBA playoffs ratings performance for ESPN.

The total sports network's May 19 Los Angeles Lakers-Denver Nuggets game 1 Western Conference finals telecast drew 8.1 million viewers, an all-time basketball telecast best for the network. That delivery topped the previous mark set just last week when 7.3 million viewers watched ESPN's May 14 Houston/Los Angeles Game 6 Western Conference Semifinals telecast.

The Lakers-Nuggets game, in which Kobe Bryant netted 40 as his Lakers outpointed the Nuggets 105-103, despite 39 from Denver's Carmello Anthony, outpaced last year's Detroit/Boston Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 by 49% in viewers (5.4 million), 35% in households (4.2 million) and 32% in rating (4.4), according to ESPN officials.

In the teams' local markets, the Nuggets/Lakers game delivered a 16.1 rating in Denver, the highest-rated NBA game on ESPN or ABC ever locally since 2003, when such ratings were first recorded. In Los Angeles, the game posted a 13.2 rating, the highest-rated NBA playoff game on ESPN, excluding The Finals, since 2003.

ESPN on Thursday will carry live the second game of the Nuggets/Lakers series beginning at 9 p.m.,

Tonight, TNT begins its live coverage of the Eastern Conference finals pitting the Orlando Magic against the Cleveland Cavaliers and league MVP LeBron James.

TNT holds the top NBA telecast of the season with its May 18 coverage of Game 7 when Orlando eliminated the defending champion Boston Celtics, notching a 5.2 national rating, 5.91 million households and 8.41 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research data.