The NBA released its schedule for the two weeks of regular season games left to be played. The biggest takeaway? Basketball for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Multiple games will be played every day from July 30 to August 14. We will finally emerge from the sports-less desert we have gotten lost in for three months.
NBA and TV executives are more excited than even the most passionate fan, or so I would imagine. Ratings may very well be sky-high because everybody missed sports and even the most casual of basketball fans will be tuning in whenever they can. Which games hold the most potential for a bonanza of viewers?
1. New Orleans Pelicans vs. Utah Jazz, July 30, 6:30 PM ET (TNT)
Duh. The very first NBA game since March will give the Lakers/Clippers matchup a serious run for their money when it comes to the ratings battle. Zion Williamson is a name most casual sports fans already know, much less casual basketball fans. It won't be the first televised event of the four major sports-- MLB and the NHL will have had a few games by the time July 30 arrives-- but as the first basketball game on national TV early on a Friday evening, the viewership will be gigantic, even if the Jazz aren't a huge draw and the Pelicans still have a relatively small fanbase.
2. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Los Angeles Clippers, July 30, 9 PM ET (TNT)
The second game of the opening slate features: the two best teams in the Western Conference, LeBron James, and the Lakers' fanbase. The 9PM time-slot means the total viewcount might be a bit lower than one might expect with the powerhouse names and competition on display, but it will be a big winner for the NBA and TNT. It doesn't get the top slot here, however, because the East Coast viewership drop-off will still be rather substantial, given the game starts at 9 PM on a Thursday evening.
3. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, August 5, 6:30 PM ET (ESPN)
This is one of two Lakers games that will be on before 8 PM Eastern. That means it will automatically get big numbers as far as the ratings go. The other comes against the Pacers, who are not a viewership draw by any means, so LeBron facing off against the Thunder should be the more attractive of the two. What hurts is that August 5 is a Wednesday, so West Coast viewers will only be able to catch the end of the game. But, since working from home is still universal for most cities, it wouldn't hurt as much as normal. The Lakers will be the breadwinners of the restart ratings, as expected.
4. Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors, August 12, 6:30 PM ET (ESPN)
This matchup has several factors working in its favor. First, due to the nature of the Sixers' relatively easy schedule in the restart, this is only one of two nationally televised Philadelphia games. The other comes against the Orlando Magic. So this should be the bigger ratings winner of the two for Philly's large fanbase. August 12 is also the only day in these two weeks with only four games slated to be played. On top of this being a battle between two of the Eastern Conference's better teams and the recent history between the pair, the attraction for viewers is obvious.
5. Boston Celtics vs. Portland Trail Blazers, August 2, 3:30 PM ET (ABC)
A Sunday afternoon matinee on ABC is usually ripe for big ratings numbers, and as the first of its kind on the NBA's new schedule, this will be a big winner. The Blazers might not be a top team but still have Damian Lillard, one of the most singularly enjoyable players to watch in the NBA. The Celtics have a sizable fanbase and are battling for high seeding in the Eastern Conference. The last time Boston played on a Sunday afternoon national broadcast, Jayson Tatum dropped 40 on the Lakers. It should be a good game and everyone will be happy to sit on the couch on a Sunday afternoon with nothing but sports to watch.