- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Television viewership is up nearly one-third for the NBA playoffs, and the conference finals are off to a strong start.

Games in the first two rounds averaged an audience of 4.92 million people, compared with 3.74 million last year. The conference semifinals averaged 6.14 million viewers, a 28 percent increase from 2010.

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals was watched by 11.1 million people, the most for an NBA game on cable. The previous record of 10.8 million was for Michael Jordan’s last All-Star Game in 2003, when the population was smaller.

The Chicago Bulls’ 103-82 win over the Miami Heat on Sunday on TNT earned a 6.2 rating, up 41 percent from the Suns-Lakers Western Conference opener on the network last year.

The start of the Western Conference finals Tuesday will be a test for whether the NBA can keep up the ratings momentum, with the small-market Oklahoma City Thunder facing the Dallas Mavericks.

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

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