From 2002 – 2020,15.4 million people on average in the United States watch the NBA finals. That’s many fans which are investing their time (and maybe money) to watch basketball games. So how long are NBA games in general via the total time it takes to watch the matchup? Learn more about this answer below!

How Long are NBA Games Typically?


A typical NBA game takes about two to two and a half hours to complete. A regular season during the game takes less time to complete than a playoff game. The primary reason why playoff games take a bit longer than regular-season games pertains to the commercial breaks.

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How Many Minutes of Game time is a Basketball Game

NBA games are forty-eight minutes of game time broken into four 12-minute quarters. Each quarter is 12 minutes of the game clock that stops numerous times during the game. The stoppage in action takes place for a handful of reasons, which you can find further down this post.

For the Olympics, basketball games break down into four 10-minute quarters. Similarly, the WNBA also uses four ten-minute-quarters instead of twelve minutes. For NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) college basketball games, you have two 20-minute halves, along with a 15-minute halftime break in the middle.

Why Does the Clock Keep Stopping During NBA Games?


There are numerous reasons why the game clock stops running during a basketball game. Below are some of the most common reasons why clock stoppages occur during an NBA match.

A free throw occurs, which could lead to one, two, or even three free throws.One team calls a timeout. Each team has one sixty-second timeout along with shorter second timeouts depending on if the game is nationally televised or not. If the game is on ESPN, you can expect longer timeouts for TV commercials.A referee calls a foulThe basketball ball goes into the stands or simply out of bounds.An injury takes place on the court. Depending on the injury, you will see a commercial break that allows the player to receive the medical attention they need.A play being reviewed (like if a shot went off before the end of regulation) by the referees.Halftime break lasting fifteen minutes and the automatic end of each quarter. The halftime break is mainly for each team to get a breather between the first and second half of basketball.Overtime periods lasting five minutesPlayers coming in via substitutionsFourth quarters, especially when the game is close, tend to have more fouls to stop the clock. Since the shot clock is twenty-four seconds, the defensive team will try and foul the offensive team who has possession of the ball to stop the clock and force a free throw.

What Adds to the Time for Playoff Games?

Playoff basketball tends to take a bit longer than regular-season games to complete. The primary reason why playoff games are more prolonged than regular-season games pertains to longer commercial breaks.

What is the Longest NBA Game?

The longest NBA game took place in 1951 with the Indianapolis Olympians and the Rochester Royals. There were multiple overtime periods, which made the actual playtime clock seventy-eight minutes. The Indianapolis Olympians are no longer a franchise in the National Basketball Association, while the Rochester Royals are now the Sacramento Kings.

What are Ways the NBA is Speeding up the Game?

Basketball matches tend to have quick and constant action, but there are reasons why the clock stops running. Basketball leagues (like the NBA and WNBA) are always looking for ways to speed up the action and conclusion of games. Here are some of the ways to reduce the game length in basketball.

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Limiting the number of foul calls that take place during a gameReducing the number of commercials during the gameIf the reduction in commercials is not an option, basketball can incorporate a split-screen in action with a commercial and game showing side by sideSpeeding up instant replay reviews by referees


The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) oversees and controls professional basketball game settings. The (FIBA) has complete control over things like the game’s length per basketball quarter and so on. While basketball games tend to have fast action during the match, you will find that the fourth quarter tends to slow the game’s pace dramatically due to the strategy of stopping the clock.