NBA overtime rules: Explaining how the OT format works in regular season and playoff games

Spring is the best time of the year for basketball fans. After March Madness, the NBA playoffs kick off, creating a three-month stretch of intense, high-octane basketball.

Perhaps the only thing better than playoff basketball is more playoff basketball, which is why overtime is so thrilling for all fans. Who doesn’t love a few extra minutes of competition?

The NBA playoffs kick off with the Play-In Tournament on Tuesday, April 16, and the first round will begin on Saturday, April 20.

Here’s what you need to know about the OT rules in the NBA postseason.

MORE: NBA Playoff bracket 2024

NBA playoffs overtime rules

An NBA game consists of four 12-minute quarters, but that can be extended if there’s a tie at the end of the fourth quarter.

If both teams have the same score at the end of regulation, there will be an overtime period of five minutes. Both teams will still play five-on-five in the shortened period until the buzzer.

If they’re still tied at the end of the period, another five-minute overtime will begin. This process will continue until one team has a lead at the end of the extra period.

The NBA has near identical framework for how overtime works in the regular season and playoffs. The key difference is the amount of fouls prior to entering the bonus.

In a 12-minute quarter, a team’s fifth foul or second foul under two minutes sends the opponent to the free throw line for two shots. Overtime is a five-minute period, so free throws are awarded on a team’s fourth foul or second foul under three minutes.

Lastly, the NBA allots each team two timeouts per overtime period.

NBA regular season overtime rules

The NBA follows nearly the same set of overtime rules in the regular season and playoffs, making it easy for fans to follow once they understand the concept. The only difference lies in the aforementioned foul limit.

It’s unlike other sports, such as hockey and football, which have different versions of overtime rules during the regular season and postseason.

What is the longest NBA game?

The longest game in NBA history happened in 1951 when the Indianapolis Olympians defeated the Rochester Royals 75-73 in six overtimes, according to the Guinness World Records.

The final score is telling of the era of basketball. A 75-73 game could very easily be a halftime score in the modern NBA. Nonetheless, the game lasted 78 playing minutes — 48 in regulation and 30 in overtime.


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