Data: NBA play-in tournament a viewing success

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The NBA held its very first play-in tournament last week, with eight teams vying for the final four play-off spots. The tournament was marked by some instant classics as the NBA’s star players squared off to keep their play-off hopes alive.
The May 19th game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors was far and away the biggest draw, with 3.8 million US households tuning in to watch LeBron James face off against Steph Curry, according to Samba TV.

In fact, nearly every game of the play-in tournament drew 2 million or more households, per Samba TV data:

  • Boston Celtics vs Washington Wizards (TNT, 5/18): 2.4 million
  • Indiana Pacers vs. Charlotte Hornets (ESPN, 5/18): 1.7 million HH, the lowest viewership of the tournament
  • San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies (ESPN, 5/19): 2.3 million
  • Indiana Pacers vs. Washington Wizards (TNT, 5.20): 2.0 million
  • Memphis Grizzlies vs. Golden State Warriors (ESPN, 5/21): 2.7 million
Overall, the play-in tournament was a big success for the NBA following a brief experiment with a play-in game in August of 2020. That match-up, between Memphis and Portland, only drew 483,000 households, per Samba TV.

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