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Bulls vs. Lakers Ranks 3 in All-Time Ratings

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

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 25: Pao Gasol #16 of the Los Angeles Lakers and Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls tip-off to start the game at Staples Center on December 25, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

    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.