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WNBA Finals draws best Game 1 rating since 1998

Minnesota Lynx's Rebekkah Brunson (32) and Maya Moore (23) react to a foul call against the Los Angeles Sparks during the second half of Game 3 of a WNBA basketball Western Conference semifinal series, Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, in Minneapolis. The Lynx won 91-80. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
AP Photo/Stacy Bengs

Despite airing opposite NFL Week 5, the WNBA Finals saw its Game 1 rating spike to the highest point in nearly 20 years — at least regarding first games of a Finals series.

Game 1 between the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks drew 597,000 viewers, according to Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated. Those overnight numbers are the highest for a Game 1 of a WNBA Finals since 1998, the league’s second season and second of four straight championships for the now-defunct Houston Comets.

As for its rating, the 0.5 mark was the best for any WNBA Finals game since 2010, according to an ESPN press release. Sunday’s game, which aired on ABC, marked a 25 percent increase from the 2015 WNBA Finals’ opening night.

The game aired late Sunday afternoon, which placed it in the smaller second block of NFL games. As expected, the Minneapolis market was most interested in this matchup, generating a 2.1 rating — by far the highest of any city. The Vikings moved to 5-0 during the NFL’s early time slot, so local audience division wasn’t a factor.

Nashville and Hartford, Conn., represented the two next-highest ratings, per local markets. Los Angeles did not seem too interested, with its 0.4 rating ranking well outside of the top five. The Rams were hosting the Bills during this time slot, and Los Angeles is not exactly known as a devoted city regarding lower-tier sports franchises.

The Sparks beat the Lynx 78-76 on a buzzer-beater to put the WNBA’s resident 2010s dynasty in an early hole. Los Angeles hasn’t won a WNBA title since the Lisa Leslie days, claiming the 2001 and ’02 championships. Minnesota, meanwhile, has won three this decade — including last year’s championship.

Game 2 is set for tonight on ESPN2.

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