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NEW YORK — NBA fans seem more excited about basketball’s return than bitter about the lockout based on television ratings for the league’s delayed openers.
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The five Christmas games Sunday attracted large audiences, with the Bulls-Lakers matchup drawing the third-highest preliminary rating for a regular-season game on ABC. The 6.5 overnight rating trailed only a 7.3 for last year’s highly anticipated Heat-Lakers showdown and a 7.9 for another meeting between Miami and LA in 2004.

Chris Paul’s Clippers debut in the nightcap against the Warriors earned a 2.3 overnight, up 77 percent over last year’s Portland-Golden State telecast. It was ESPN’s highest-rated Christmas prime-time game.

The earlier night game on ESPN – Magic-Thunder – drew a 1.9 overnight, up 36 percent from to last year’s Denver-Oklahoma City matchup. The afternoon’s finals rematch on ABC, the Heat’s rout of the Mavericks, earned a 5.6 overnight, up 6 percent from Boston-Orlando last year.

The Celtics-Knicks game on TNT to open the day drew a 4.1 overnight. The early game on ESPN last year, Bulls-Knicks, had a 2.7 on ESPN.

Ratings represent the percentage of all homes with televisions tuned to a program. Overnight ratings measure the country’s largest markets.

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