With the volume of new NBA followers who’re watching the playoffs this time around, we thought it prudent to explain how overtime periods work in the NBA.

The Celtics and Raptors went to double-overtime in Game 6 of their Conference Semifinals matchup. Initially tied at 98-98 after 48 minutes of game play, they were tied after the first OT period as well – at 106-106. Double OT is an extremely rare occurrence in basketball games.

How long is the overtime period in the NBA?

5 minutes.

An overtime period of 5 minutes is added to every NBA game that is tied at the end of regulation time. The same rules apply in FIBA and other international basketball leagues as well. Refs keep adding overtime periods till there is a 5-minute period with a clear winner. Unlike football, there is no equivalent penalty shootout in the game of basketball.

Also Read: NBA 3 second rule: What is the 3-second rule on offensive end; complete explanation

Teams are allowed 2 timeouts each in every overtime period. The fouling penalty kicks in after 3 fouls in each period. Players are not allowed any more than the 5 fouls that are within their power during the regulation period. It is typical for a lot of players to foul out during overtime.

Games that go into overtime typically become a bit lopsided. This happens especially if one team has used its players for high minutes (36+) during the first 4 quarters of the game. Overtime games are the ultimate litmus test for a player’s fitness – especially that for a starting player.

Small ball lineups are also pretty common during the overtime periods of games. This is because big men usually get tired much more easily running up and down court and not getting to work on offensive possessions on the ball. The Raptors playing Anunoby at center today was an example of the same.


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