An NBA Fun Fact

Is it possible for the shot clock to have more time on it than the game clock ?

Those of you paying close attention to the Suns vs Spurs game might have noticed during the 2nd overtime, Ginobli grabbed a huge rebound and while he was expecting to get fouled, the shot clock turned over to 24 secs and seemed to be stuck there.

Then as the game clock continued to wind down, an interesting thing happened. The time left on the shot clock was HIGHER than the time left in the game. The shot clock was showing 24 secs while the game clock was at 23.6 seconds and counting down.

How can this possibly happen ?

By Design. This is right and exactly the way the NBA clocks are designed to work

Its because of the way the software for the shot clock is designed to work. When the shot clock starts counting down, it doesn’t start counting at 24.0 seconds. It actually starts counting at 24.9 seconds. So when the shot clock changes from 24 to 23, that means the shot clock has counted down from 24.9 and has changed to 23.9.

This also means that when the shot clock shows 1 second left, there can be anywhere from 1.9 seconds to 1.0 seconds left. This approach allows the shot clock to go off and sound the horn as it turns from 1.0 to zero, having counted down 24 seconds from 24.9 to .9 . So there could be 1.7 seconds showing on the shot clock, .9 seconds left in the game and there still could still be a shot clock violation if a shot isnt off before there are .2 seconds left in the game.

If it wasnt done this way, we would have to have tenths of a seconds on the shot clock. Which could be better or worse , depending on your point of view.

Either way, the one ever present fact in NBA games is that the end of any quarter, its very possible to have more time on the shot clock than on the game clock, with the shot clock still in effect. So when you see this, it doesn’t mean that there is a clock problem, it means the software is working as designed

25 thoughts on “An NBA Fun Fact

  1. Very interesting, I didn\’t know that


    Comment by Banker -

  2. Since when have the Mavs turned into a playoff choke team. Thatembarassment of a series against Miami sure has haunted us eversince. Maybe the Kidd trade was too much of a reaction.

    Comment by Michael -

  3. Since when have the Mavs turned into a playoff choke team. That embarassment of a series against Miami sure has haunted us ever since. Maybe the Kidd trade was too much of a reaction.

    Comment by Michael -

  4. I still don\’t get why it has to start at 24.9. Why not just call it a 25 second shot clock and start it at 25.0?

    Comment by Jasers -

  5. A fun fact, here ist is: avery johnson shoudl have been fired long time ago…after the heat meltdown, he\’s not a coach, but just some annoying screamer on the sideline. Now, everybody sees it: HE just can\’t get his players mentally ready to play after a big loss, see heat series, see warriors series, and now new orleans series….
    PLEASE Mark fire him right now, after this pathetic game 2 performance, anybody could prepare this team better than he does for game 3!!
    there is no game plan, no defense, no reaction from the team, nothing!
    keep dirk and howard and trade everybody else, it\’s time to rebuild now or dirk will be gone to win his ring with a team that has a real coach.
    Dirk: demand a real coach or demand a trade to miami or phoenix, or sign with them as a free agent, nash and amare or dwade and the matrix would be more than happy to play with you. YOu need to get out of there if things are not shaken up.

    Comment by andy -


    Comment by Kyle Tancrell -

  7. Oops: it was 12-13 frames at 24 fps. But same result.

    Comment by Emre Sessiz -

  8. Huh, that\’s cool. I\’m a bit ashamed to be as geeky as I am and never have noticed that before.

    Comment by Emre Sessiz -

  9. I think what Mark writes (clock counts down from 24.9) is just his way of understanding how it works. (Not sure why he has to think of it as starting at 24.9 and ending at 0.9, as opposed to 24.0 to 0.0. Same difference) #2Brad\’s and #10 Deva\’s interpretations make perfect sense to me as well. As #16 Brian say, the bottom line is that, \”If the (shot) clock shows 12, there are more than 11.0 but no more than 12.0 seconds to shoot the ball.\” Thereby, you could have 11.1 seconds on the game clock and \”12\” on the shot clock.

    Comment by howard u -

  10. Oops: it was 12-13 frames at 24 fps. But same result.

    Comment by Brian Tung -

  11. Brian (13): No. The clock shows 24 for a full second after the ball is touched inbounds after a made shot, for instance. If the internal timer started at 23.9 while displaying 24, it would only click over to 23 when the internal timer hit 22.9. By that reasoning, it would only click over to 0 when the internal timer hit -0.1.

    Cuban\’s making a different point; he\’s saying that the internal timer is set to 24.9 at the start, but the clock only displays the integral number of seconds. Thus, when the shot clock displays 1, the internal timer is anywhere from 1.9 down to 1.0 (rounded to tenths). It only shows 0 (and the buzzer only sounds) when the internal timer gets to 0.9–when exactly 24 seconds have elapsed.

    That may be how the clocks do it–even if it sounds like a hack that wouldn\’t have been necessary once clocks got reasonably sophisticated–but it really doesn\’t affect how the clock should be interpreted. If the clock shows 12, there are more than 11.0 but no more than 12.0 seconds to shoot the ball. I think that\’s the point that Deva (10) was trying to make.

    Ryan (12): Going frame by frame, identifying when Fisher first touched the ball and then went up for the shot and released the ball–the whole sequence took 15 frames at 30 fps, about 0.5 seconds (give or take a few hundredths). In other words, the refs started the clock about 0.1 seconds late. Not bad, considering that Duncan\’s shot went entirely through the net (it has to go through the net, not just the hoop) with about 0.7 seconds left.

    Note that normal reaction times do not apply, because the ball going through the net and Fisher touching the ball are not unexpected events. The refs can see a split-second before they happen that they will happen. That\’s not to say there is no reaction time at all; for instance, Duncan might have missed the shot, and the refs cannot be too eager on the button, so it\’s natural that it took longer for the clock to stop after he made the shot than it took for them to start it again when Fisher touched the ball, which is more predictable.

    Still, comments from some quarters that based on human reaction times the clock \”must\” have started over a half-second late are wholly unjustified. The video objectively shows the delay to be short: on the order of a tenth of a second. (As with the shot clock, there\’s some imprecision in the game clock–might have been anywhere between 0.3 and 0.4 seconds on the internal timer.)

    Sorry for the long comment.

    Comment by Brian Tung -

  12. I think I agree with Deva on #10 unless the NBA has their clocks programmed differently. All the shot clocks I have operated in college tick from 35 (or 30 for the ladies) to 0, with the time rounded up (hence 2.6 would show as 3).

    There are a few NCAA schools that have shot clocks that display tenths of a second when the shot clock goes under 10 seconds.

    I know the NBA was tinkering with a gadget that allowed the referees to remotely start and stop the clock in late game situations instead of the timer. Are they using it now? No matter who has control of the clock, there will always be human reaction time involved with seeing the ball being touched inbounds and the .2-.3 seconds it takes for your brain to process that information and turn the clock on.

    Comment by Mike -

  13. pretty interesting. I would like them to add tenths of a second to the shot clock.

    Comment by super bowl -

  14. I think you mean the clock starts counting down at 23.9 seconds.

    Otherwise, 23.6 on the game clock would read 23 on the shot clock. Also, it would mean the last .9 seconds of the game have 0 seconds left on the shot clock instead of 1.

    Comment by Brian -

  15. My biggest pet peeve is that referees put so much scrutiny into checking that a shot got off on time, but not enough scrutiny on starting the clock at the right time off of a pass in.

    For example, In Derek Fisher\’s miracle shot with .4 seconds on the clock. He clearly has the ball for between a half-second and a second before the clock starts. Sure, it was a great clutch shot, but the rules are there for a purpose. You can\’t disregard them just because you want to cheer for someone.

    Comment by Ryan Rapp -

  16. mark-


    your link at the right of the page reads \”Dallas Mavericks WII.\”

    I\’m guessing you want it to read \”Dallas Mavericks Wiki\” or \”Dallas Mavericks WIKI.\”

    Comment by Thomas Laughlin -

  17. Mark,

    Isn\’t that simply because the shot clock shows 24 from 24 seconds left until 23 seconds left? Therefore if the possession starts at 24.1 seconds, after .1 seconds elapse, the shot clock will read 24 even as the game clock counts down 23.9, 23.8, 23.7 and only switch to 23 at 23.1 seconds left in the game.

    So the shot clock could count from 24 to 0 instead of 24.9 to .9 and it wouldn\’t make any difference. It still would read 1 for the period from 1 second left down to 0, and would still go off after 24 seconds elapsed. The fact that it \”starts counting at 24.9 seconds\” and goes off at .9 seconds instead of counting from 24 seconds and going off at 0 seconds seems irrelevant.

    Comment by Deva Hazarika -

  18. Huh, that\’s cool. I\’m a bit ashamed to be as geeky as I am and never have noticed that before.

    Comment by Shawn K -

  19. You could also have more or less time if you are playing in Atlanta……or so I hear.

    Comment by Jim K -

  20. An interesting tidbit of info. Without going all \’Cliff Claven\’, I have to figure some way to get that into my next conversation about basketball. Of course, I will have to give it up that I learned it on BM.

    Comment by YourPCDoctor -

  21. They don\’t show tenths so it\’s easier for the players to read the shot clock. It would be easy to confuse .9 for 9 while you are playing.

    If they start at 24.0, the clock will read zero before 24 seconds is up. If they started at 25.0, it would look like a 25 second shot clock. So 24.9 makes perfect sense when you are ticking down by tenths.

    I thought they turned the shot clock off when there was less time on the game clock then shot clock though?

    Comment by Mufaka -

  22. Hey Mark, Interesting. You would think in the days when the space shuttle gets minor air time on lift offs and landings,someone could create a program that when the game gets below 24 or 23.9 the shot clock would automatically go with what is left in the game when possession changes. I know little about b ball and nothing about software but it would eliminate some confusion. Maybe I am missing something but could this be \”Can\’t see the forest for the trees\” kind of thing? Thanks for the thoughts.

    Comment by Frankie from Lawnside -

  23. Ah, now I know the next time it comes up in trivial pursuit : )

    Comment by Amy Krut -

  24. Why not simply start the shot clock at 24.0 seconds, and then have \”24\” show on the clock until the time ticks from 23.1 to 23.0? With 0.1 seconds on the shot clock, it will read \”01\”, and then when it ticks to 0.0, the shot clock will read \”00\”.

    No need to show tenths of seconds on the shot clock, and it\’s still accurate without this confusion. Why does it have to start at 24.9?

    Comment by Brad Russell -

  25. Wow, that was a fun fact. I\’ve thought a lot about how to keep last-second shots from being so entrenched in the technicalities. It should come down to players making shots, not tenths of a second with fingertip still touching the ball.

    I\’m a Spurs fan, but I was annoyed at how many people complained about Derek Fisher\’s 0.4 second turn-around game winner, and how he took more than .4 to get the shot off. In my opinion, the player made the shot and that\’s what the NBA is about. It was clutch.

    The best, and certainly not perfect, solution I came up with is to have game-clock expiration mean that after the horn sounds, the quarter/game doesn\’t end until a change of possession (including shot clock violation). It certainly takes away the drama of the buzzer-beater, but it adds the drama of the shot they decide to take, who gets the rebound, etc. Let players taking shots decide the game, not fractions of seconds.

    Comment by Keith -

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