Stephen Curry # 30 of the Golden State Warriors heads to the basket against the Los Angeles Lakers during the 2021 NBA Play-In Tournament on May 19, 2021 at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.
Adam Pantozzi | National Basketball Association | Getty Images
The National Basketball Association game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors drew an average of 5.6 million viewers on Wednesday night.
ESPN said the game peaked at around 12:30 p.m. Eastern time with 6.1 million viewers. The network said the game was the most watched competition on ESPN since the 2019 Western Conference round. That series also featured Curry and the Warriors.
LeBron James led the Lakers to a 103-100 win over the Warriors led by Steph Curry. James finished the game with a triple-double (22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists), including the winning shot, as the Lakers secured their place in the playoffs with the seventh seed.
In the NBA play-in games, seeds 7-10 are planted in each conference, with winners securing the final four playoff spots. The seventh and eighth seed play for the right to seventh place. The loser of the competition has another chance to win if the team plays the winner of the ninth and tenth starting games.
The NBA installed play-in games last summer after the Covid-19 pandemic cut their season. And the league had to help national media partners Turner Sports and ESPN recover from financial losses when the games were suspended.
According to the NBA, the competition between the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs averaged 2.29 million viewers. The Grizzlies won the game (100-96) and will play against the Warriors on Friday to claim the rights to the final playoff spot.
Ja Morant # 12 of the Memphis Grizzlies bounces off the San Antonio Spurs during the 2021 NBA Play-In Tournament on May 19, 2021 at the FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee.
Joe Murphy | National Basketball Association | Getty Images
Turner also reported strong attendance for his competitions on Tuesday. The seventh Boston Celtics win against the Washington Wizards averaged 2.5 million viewers, while the Charlotte Hornets and Indiana Pacers game averaged 1.4 million viewers.
“The early returns are good,” said Evan Wasch, executive vice president of basketball strategy and analysis, when speaking with CNBC earlier this month about the box office. “We’re seeing increased levels of competition late in the season. We’re seeing more playoff races from top to bottom of the standings – teams fighting for six, fighting for seven, fighting for ten.”
After the play-in, the NBA will begin its postseason 2021 on Saturday. Four games are planned, including the Brooklyn Nets, which will host the Celtics.