For at least each of the first four games, the network will run a Jimmy Kimmel Live: Game Night half-hour special. The specials will air before each basketball game at 8 p.m. in the Eastern and Central time zones and after the game in the Mountain and Pacific zones.
Should the best-of-seven series go beyond the first four games, Kimmel will be on duty as long as the Finals last.
The Game Night half-hours continue Kimmel’s land grab on ABC, which has given its late-night franchise increasing exposure on the network. Already this year, ABC aired Jimmy Kimmel Live specials for its fifth anniversary and its 1,000th episode, as well as a post-Academy Awards installment.
After locking in the Kimmel specials, ABC executives will now sit back and try not to get caught cheering for the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics to reach the Finals.
The Lakers are playing the San Antonio Spurs in one semifinal series, while the Celtics are playing the Detroit Pistons in the other.
A Spurs-Pistons series would be a tough ratings draw at best (and probably mark the return of the Eva Longoria cam as the Desperate Housewives star cheers on husband and Spurs guard Tony Parker).
On the other hand, a Lakers-Celtics series would be a big boost for ABC and the league. It would not only feature bigger stars, but it would also be able to play off the rekindling of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry, when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were guiding the league into one of its most popular stretches.