- Associated Press - Monday, December 26, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - NBA fans seem more excited about basketball’s return than bitter about the lockout based on television ratings for the league’s delayed openers.

The five Christmas games Sunday averaged 6.2 million viewers based on fast national ratings, up from 6 million last year.

The Bulls-Lakers matchup was the third most-watched regular-season game ever on ABC, behind only last year’s highly anticipated Heat-Lakers showdown and another meeting between Miami and LA in 2004.

Chris Paul’s Clippers debut in the nightcap against the Warriors earned a 2.2 rating, up 69 percent over last year’s Portland-Golden State telecast in the same slot.

It was ESPN’s highest-rated Christmas prime-time game. The day’s first contest, Celtics-Knicks on TNT, was the most viewed Christmas game ever on cable. The 4.0 rating was up 48 percent from last year’s Bulls-Knicks game on ESPN.

The first night game on ESPN _ Magic-Thunder _ drew a 1.8, up 29 percent from last year’s Denver-Oklahoma City matchup. The afternoon’s finals rematch on ABC, the Heat’s rout of the Mavericks, earned a 4.9, up 7 percent from Boston-Orlando last year.

Ratings represent the percentage of all homes with televisions tuned to a program.

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