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NBC glitzes up NBA finals

NBC Sports seems to be making a unique play to hold its audience in the upcoming NBA Championship Finals series with pop music acts and unprecedented Weakest Link segments.

Irish rock group U2 leads off the festivities playing two tunes from a performance at Boston's FleetCenter as the Los Angeles Lakers-Philadelphia 76ers series starts on Wednesday night. Two NBA-themed segments of Weakest Link featuring NBC basketball commentators Bill Walton versus Steve Jones and WNBA stars Lisa Leslie and Baron Davis will air during the second and third game Lakers-Sixers' halftimes. Those ten-minute segments will split the 20-minute halftime segments with NBC's game commentators. Pop acts Destiny's Child and Sugar Ray are slated for live performances at the arenas for games 4 and 5. Music acts are tentatively planned for the sixth and seventh games, if the series goes that far.

An NBC Sports spokeswoman said the halftime shows had been planned for months and didn't suggest that the network is hedging its bets against a blowout series with lopsided scores by the half. "This is an acknowledgement that our NBA audience become broader for the playoffs," the spokeswoman said. But flashy halftime sideshows could also help bolster the audience, and improve individual game ratings through what could be a short series.

NBC ratings average through 30 NBA playoff games thus far dipped 14% from last year, to a 4.9 rating, 12 share, from a 5.7/14 for 31 games preceding last year's final series. - Richard Tedesco