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How long is an NBA game?

The NBA is one of the most popular leagues in the world. When it comes to basketball, it is definitely the most-watched competition, with millions of fans in the US and around the globe. If you are visiting the United States you may want to try and catch an NBA game. However, you maybe wondering how long is an NBA game?

How long is an NBA game? While there is no specified amount of time of how much a single NBA game takes, on average a match lasts around 2 and a half hours to complete. It includes the main time, as well as, timeouts, commercial breaks, and time for injuries.

Whenever you are attending an NBA match, you should never expect that it would end soon. In this article, we will talk about the duration of NBA games and what factors affect their longevity.

NBA game duration explained briefly

The actual time from the start of the match to the end of the match cannot be predicted. It consists not only of regular time but also of time-outs and breaks. The game consists of four quarters, each 10 minutes long for FIBA ​​and 12 for the NBA. If the score of both teams is the same, then overtimes are added to the main time. They last for 5 minutes. If at the end of the overtime the score is again the same, then the next one is assigned.

The above graph highlights the time lapsed for each minute of an NBA game. This graph is supplied by

Basketball is divided into playing time and non-playing time. Non-playing time refers to the time when the ball is not in play: an interruption, preparation for a free throw, a dropped ball, or a foul. Thus, the total time of the match can increase significantly. For example, if teams often foul on each other, then the ball becomes “dead” for 30-60 minutes.

Additional factors affecting the length of NBA games

When it comes to NBA games and how long they are, there are several “non-game” factors impacting the duration of matches. Let’s have a look at some of them.


If you were on a basketball match and some of the players were injured, it could sometimes take up to 20 minutes before the player is taken out of the field – depending on the severity of an injury. For example, when Gordon Hayward was injured against the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2017, the process became very protracted. Of course, such things are not frequent, but overall, they have an impact on the game.

Commercial breaks

Commercial breaks are an integral part of any NBA game, especially when it comes to the playoffs. Such breaks are normally up to 5 minutes and they are also called unofficial timeouts. In such a way broadcasters and companies advertise their product.


When the game is already approaching the end, there are controversial moments when referees do not have a clear decision about fouls, or which team they should award the ball. Because of that, they use a technology where they check for the replay of a moment. Sometimes checking controversial moments happens several times in a game and it could take up to 10 minutes. The process becomes even longer if the referees should decide whether to give a player a flagrant foul or not.

Free-throw preparation

Another thing that really affects the NBA game is preparation for free throws. On average, both teams attempt nearly 30 free throws per game if not more. There is a specific time for preparation each player takes. It could further increase the game for additional 20 minutes. Giannis is notorious for taking so long to take his free throws, check out the video below.


If we compare basketball to football, there are no limited substitutions. In the NBA, coaches can substitute the same player for an unlimited number of times. This is also one of the reasons, why NBA games tend to be much longer than other sports. At the same time, substitutions frequently occur at the end of a match, when coaches decide to introduce defensive players when the opponents are in the offence and vice versa.

Do timeouts really last for 1 minute?

You might be also wondering about the length of timeouts in the NBA matches. There are 1-minute and 20-second timeouts but none of them lasts for this amount of time and takes approximately 3-4 minutes. It basically happens for several reasons. First of all, every on-court player must leave the field and minimal details often result in protracted timeouts.

What was the longest match in the NBA?

While we are talking about timing in the NBA it is necessary to talk about the longest game which took place in 1951 between the Rochester Royals and the Indianapolis Olympians. This game was played for 78 minutes including 6 overtimes! We are talking about the pure gameplay, where the ball was in play. While this is an old game and not many commercial breaks took place back at that time, it is still likely that spectators were forced to stay for more than 2 and a half hours to witness the end of the match.

What do you need to take into account before attending an NBA match?

Before going to a basketball match, you should always understand that the game never lasts 48 minutes strictly. Additional details which we have already discussed above significantly raise the flow of the game. If there are overtimes you could end up being in a match for more than 2 hours.

According to NBA statistics, on average, a basketball game lasts about 135-140 minutes. This is true for the regular season, in the playoffs the matches are usually more protracted.

In European basketball, the duration of the match is shorter – four quarters of 10 minutes each, that is, 40 minutes of regular time.

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