How do timeouts work in the NBA? All you need to know

How do timeouts work in the NBA? All you need to know

The infinite timeout loophole that almost broke the 1976 NBA Finals | Weird Rules
The infinite timeout loophole that almost broke the 1976 NBA Finals | Weird Rules

Timeouts are one of the most important aspects of an NBA game. Head coaches use timeouts to halt play in order to communicate with their players and give out instructions that could affect the game’s outcome.

Coaches usually call timeouts to make certain adjustments depending on how the game is being played. Some coaches use a timeout to halt an opposing team’s scoring run. Other coaches, specifically Gregg Popovich, like to call timeouts when their team is not playing great defensively.

Players can also call timeouts during certain situations, like when they try to avoid a five-second violation. But it’s mostly used in crunch time situations when coaches draw up plays to tie or win the game.

How do timeouts work in the NBA?

Doc Rivers calling a timeout.

According to the official NBA rulebook, each team has seven timeouts in regulation. Teams are limited to just four timeouts in the fourth quarter and two timeouts in the final three minutes of regulation. If a game goes into overtime, each team has two timeouts available.

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Each timeout is only 75 seconds long, with full and 20-second timeouts officially gone since the start of the 2017-18 season. The league also introduced a new rule that season regarding mandatory timeouts.

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The official scorer of the game can call a mandatory timeout if no timeouts are taken after the seventh minute mark of any quarter. The first mandatory timeout of the quarter will be charged to the home team.

The second mandatory timeout is usually called when no subsequent timeout is called after the final three minutes of a quarter. This is charged to the team that didn’t call a timeout or wasn’t charged with the first mandatory timeout.

To read all the complete rules on timeouts, click here.

What are the most famous timeouts in NBA history?

Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs

The timeout from Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals might be the most famous timeout in league history. Paul Westphal, a player for the Phoenix Suns at the time, called a timeout they didn’t have towards the end of the second overtime.

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The Boston Celtics were awarded a technical free throw, which they converted to give them a two-point lead. With the Suns able to draw up a play, they were able to force a third overtime. The game is often referred to as the “greatest game ever played.”

Another famous or infamous, and hilarious, timeout in NBA history happened a few years ago. Gregg Popovich was so upset with his players that he called a timeout 16 seconds into the game.

The San Antonio Spurs gave up an uncontested dunk to the Washington Wizards to start the game and it was enough for Popovich to blow his gasket.

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