Fixing Basketball's OT: A proposal for ESPN's +HoopIdea

We equate overtime with excitement, but basketball's overtime system actually hurts the game from a dramatic standpoint. The suspense that builds up during a back-and-forth, nailbiting fourth quarter is often nullified by adding five whole minutes back on the clock. An 8- or 9-point victory in overtime doesn't do justice to the razor-thin margin for error at the end of regulation. That's why I propose overhauling the format of overtime completely: the first team to 11 points wins.

Here's how it would work:

1) Turn off the game clock, but leave the 24 second shot clock.
2) Each team gets two timeouts.
3) On all non-shooting fouls, the team that is fouled gets the option of shooting free throws or inbounding the ball (to prevent hack-a-thons).

With this format, the object of overtime is to maximize each possession, as either team can win in as little as four trips up the court. Imagine the tension every posession, as a bevy of strategic questions come into play. Do you go for three early in OT to build momentum? With no clock, when does it make sense to use your timeouts? Imagine if you were a point guard bringing the ball up with your team down 10-8. Do you play it safe and go for two or pull up for a game-winning 3?

Another benefit of this format is that the end of the game wouldn't just be all about offense: a lockdown defense is critical. On those final possessions, you'd need to get a stop because you can't just foul and hope to get the ball back. Every overtime would become riveting, rather than the anti-climax it often is today. Eliminating the clock takes the emphasis off of the clock and puts it entirely on basketball strategy and efficiency.

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