The NBA got everything it wanted and then some on Wednesday with the play-in game between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers. The league added the play-in tournament for ratings and that is what they got.

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According to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic, the Lakers-Warriors play-in drew 5.6 million viewers on ESPN, a staggering number that easily rates as the highest-rated game of the season. The numbers for the final portion of the game were even better, with the final minutes attracting over 6.1 million viewers.

The Lakers’ close victory was the second-most watched NBA game of the 2020-21 season across all networks, behind only the team’s Christmas Day game against the Dallas Mavericks, which was simulcast on ESPN and ABC.


The strong showing came a night after TNT’s coverage of the Eastern Conference play-in games jumped by 60% over its regular-season ratings. 

The situation was certainly unique, as a battle between Stephen Curry and LeBron James was a dream matchup for the league in this scenario. Thanks to this matchup and the high stakes that it had, expect the league to keep the play in tournament around for a while.