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How the match of basketball works in NBA

In this article we will be breaking down how the game of basketball works in the NBA. What is the official duration of the game, it's players, positions, scoring outcomes and more.

Last updated: 05.06.2021
How the match of basketball works in NBA

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Ever wondered how the whole system of not just the NBA but the game of basketball works ? Well today we will be breaking that down for you on what is the official duration of the game, it's players, positions, scoring outcomes and more.

Number of players

We'll start from the basics. Basketball is a team game where in 2 teams play a 5 on 5 game of 4 quarters. A complete lineup consists of 15 players in which the last 2 are reserves and rest of the 13 players are divided into the starting 5 and bench players or the second squad.


Teams must have a backup for each position as there should be at least 2 point guards, 2 shooting guards, 2 small forwards, 2 power forwards and 2 centers. The rest of the remaining 5 players out of the 15 can be any position that the head coach of the team sees fit.


Teams start with 5 players on the court and can be substituted in and out of the game on a rotational basis. There are unlimited substitutions allowed, unlike football where it is limited to 3. And that too isn't rotational as once a player is substituted, he cannot be switched in or out of the game again. Well, that is not the case in basketball.


Now the way a game of football is divided into 2 halves of 45 minutes each which rounds it off to 90 minutes whereas an official NBA game is listed at 48 minutes divided into 4 quarters of 12 minutes each. The team with the higher score by the end of regulation wins the game.

In a situation where both teams end up with a tie-score even after the time runs out, the game then transitions into 'Overtime' period where both teams play another quarter of 5 on 5 till one team comes out on top. If the teams still end up with a tie-score, they play another quarter of overtime and this process goes on till one team finally has a higher score than the other team as the time runs out. Official overtime quarters in the NBA are 5 minutes.


Each team has the option to call timeouts whenever they want to. However, a team can only call a time-out when they have the possession of the ball otherwise they will either have to wait for the ball to 'dead' or for them to gain the possession back again. Each team gets a total of 7 timeouts that they can call anytime during the game. The duration of each timeout is 1 minute and 15 seconds. In the overtime period, a team is allowed 2 timeouts each.

Dead Ball

Now you may be wondering what a dead ball means. A dead ball situation occurs when a foul has been committed and called by a referee, a foul shot has been attempted and another one is yet to be attempted, or the ball has gone out of bounds.

Coach's Challenge

Another thing that has been added to the NBA is the ability to challenge a referee's call. Each coach of the team gets one coach's challenge that could be used to dispute fouls, out-of-bounds and goaltending violations. A coach can only challenge the play if he has time-outs left because in the case of the coach being right, the call is overturned and the other team gets the ball or in the case when the coach is wrong in his challenge, the team that had challenged the referee's call is forced to call an automatic timeout.


The way football has a yellow and red card in case of fouls, the NBA has a total of 6 number of fouls a player can commit. Basketball is a much more intricate and detailed oriented game than football, so in case you were wondering that 6 fouls are a lot for a player to commit, it happens more often than you'd think. So if a player ends up committing his 6th foul on the court, he is then fouled out of the game and has to spend the entirety of the rest of the game on the bench.

Now even the fouls committed on the floor are divided based on the intensity of the foul. It involves excessive or violent contact that could injure the fouled player.

Plays like a hard foul or unsportsmanlike conduct are directly called flagrant fouls. Flagrant fouls are divided into two types, flagrant 1 and flagrant 2. A player can still be allowed to play the game on 1 flagrant 1 foul but if he commits another flagrant foul, he is ejected from the game and has to go directly to the locker room. If a player is called for a flagrant 2 foul, he is directly ejected from the game and has to go to the locker room as an ejected player is not allowed to even sit on the bench.

Another fun fact about an official NBA game is the coach too can get ejected from the game in response to his behaviour towards mainly the officials of the game.

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