NBA overtime rules, explained: Team fouls, timeouts, challenges and more

Free basketball! That’s often the sentiment shared when the score of an NBA game is tied after 48 minutes of regulation and both teams head toward the first overtime period.

In the NBA, each overtime period is five minutes long and begins with a jump ball at mid-court.

In some games, the score is settled after one overtime period, but in others, it may take multiple overtimes, each of which begins with another jump ball and adds five more minutes to the clock. There is no limit to how many overtimes there can be in an NBA game.

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In the 2019 Western Conference Semifinals, the Nuggets and Trail Blazers battled for a postseason record-tying four overtime periods before Portland was able to escape with a three-point win. The longest game in regular-season history took five extra periods.

As the overtime period is a shortened version of a regular 12-minute period, it comes with its own sets of rules, many of which bear resemblance to rules from the last two minutes of regulation.

Here’s an explanation of the NBA’s overtime rules, including how instant replay works during the extra period.

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NBA overtime rules, explained: Team fouls, timeouts, challenges and more

Team fouls

While shooting fouls automatically result in free throws, non-shooting fouls result in the opposing team inbounding the ball. Offensive fouls are counted as personal fouls and do not add to a team’s total count for the period.

The first three non-shooting fouls committed by a team in overtime result in the opposing team inbounding the ball from the sideline. In overtime, any common foul in excess of a team’s third foul results in two free throws for the opposing team.

If a team does not commit a total of three fouls in the first three minutes of an overtime period, it can commit one non-shooting foul in the final two minutes of overtime without sending its opponent to the free throw line.

Timeouts and coach’s challenges

In overtime, each team is allowed two timeouts.

Each team is entitled to one coach’s challenge per game, regardless if the challenge is successful or not. If a team does not use its coach’s challenge during regulation, it can challenge a call in overtime.

In the last two minutes of overtime, a coach’s challenge cannot be used to challenge a called goaltending or basket interference violation or an out-of-bounds violation.

Instant replay

In the last two minutes of any overtime period, officials can trigger instant replay in the following scenarios:

  • Determining which team should be awarded possession on an out-of-bounds call
  • Determining whether or not the game clock needs to be adjusted
  • Determining whether or not illegal contact was made on a block / charge call
  • Determining whether or not a goaltending or offensive basket interference violation was called correctly

The league’s replay center official in Secaucus, NJ, can trigger instant replay in the following scenarios in the first three minutes of an overtime period:

  • To determine whether or not a made field goal was correctly ruled as a 2-pointer or 3-pointer OR to determine whether or not a player was fouled during a 2-point or 3-point attempt
  • To determine whether or not a successful shot was released prior to the expiration of the shot clock

You can find the complete rulebook for the 2021-22 NBA season here.

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