Like most sports leagues the NBA regular season is long and grueling. Unlike many sports leagues games cannot end in a tie, or a draw. In European Soccer league matches often end in a stalemate, while their knockout games can be decided by penalties. In the world of the NBA no such mechanism exists.
Can NBA games end in a tie? NBA games cannot end in a tie. In the NBA for both Regular Season and Playoff games if the score is tied at the end of the initial 48 minutes of game time, then a period of Overtime is played. This period of overtime lasts for 5 mins. If there is no winner at the end of a period of overtime, another 5 minute period will be played. This process is repeated until there is a winner.
It’s been said that sports finishing in a draw is like kissing your sister.
But in Basketball and the NBA in particular, the absence of settling for a draw can create some of the most iconic moments. Everyone loves Overtime, 5 mins of pure basketball drama.
What is the longest NBA game?
If we were to tell you that the longest NBA game of all time finished with a score of 75-73 you’d probably think we’d made a typo or not been careful enough with our research. However, this is an entirely accurate statistic. If any NBA game was going to be declared a draw it was this 1951 clash between the Indianapolis Olympians and the Rochester Royals. The game lasted for the full 48 minute regulation and was followed by 6 periods of overtime, totalling 78 minutes of game time. The period by period score is broken down below:
After the two teams finished tied up at 65 after regulation two of the Overtime periods were totally scoreless. Eventually the Olympians edged ahead winning the 6th OT period 2-0 and ending the game. The game was played in Rochester so the Royals, who have now become the Sacramento Kings lost at home to the visiting Olympians, who lasted only 4 seasons in the NBA and became defunct in 1953.
Despite this being a pre-shot clock era game, so you may expect the scores to be low, the regulation 65-65 finish was actually in itself one of the lowest scoring games of the 1950-51 NBA season. The two sides finished the longest game in NBA history each scoring less than 1 point per minute.
Two more NBA games have lasted 5 overtimes, 73 minute games. These were the Anderson Packers vs the Syracuse Nationals in 1949 and Milawaukee Bucks vs Seattle Supersonics in 1989.
More recently a 2017 clash between the New York Knicks and the Atlanta Hawks went to 4 overtime periods (68 minutes) as did the 2019 clash between the Chicago Bulls and the Hawks.
What are the overtime rules in the NBA?
When an NBA game finishes with a tied score at the end of the 48 minute regulation period the following rules apply.
- Repeating five-minute overtime periods are played until one finishes with a team leading.
- There are 130 seconds between the end of regulation and overtime and between repeated overtime periods.
- The Overtime Period follows on from the “quarter possession” rules of regulation time. Alternating who starts with possession based on who won the games opening tip.
- Each team will have two team timeouts per overtime period; previously, teams had three.
- Personal fouls are carried over to overtime.
- Team fouls are reduced from 5 per period in regulation to 4 per overtime period.
- Teams do not change the end they are defending for overtime or any subsequent OT periods.
- Overtime rules in the NBA are the same for both Regular Season and Playoff games.