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The History of Overtime in the NBA Playoffs

Posted by Andrew McKillop on May 25, 2011

For the first time ever there were overtime games on consecutive nights in the NBA conference finals.  Also interesting to note is that when the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder went into overtime, it marked the 200th time an NBA playoff game went into overtime.  I decided now more than ever it would be a good time to analyze the history of overtime in the NBA playoffs.

My assumption about overtime was that the team that pulled away with the victory was more likely to win the next game in the series, based off of the momentum they gained.  It turned out my assumption was wrong.  In the 158 applicable cases (series deciding games not included), the winning team in overtime is 60-98 (.380 W Pct) in the series next game.   However the numbers show that an overtime victory, can statistically give a team a slight boost when it comes to winning the series; with 58% of overtime winners going on to win the series (72% since 2005).

Here are some more interesting statistics/records on overtime in the NBA playoffs:

Only 35 overtime games have gone into multiple overtime periods (17%).

The average margin of victory in an NBA playoff overtime game is 4.5 points.  On 32 occasions the margin of victory was 1 point (happened last in 2009 – Boston vs. Chicago 128-127).  The greatest margin of victory in the playoffs is 11 points.  Five teams are tied for the record.

Year Round Game Won Lost Score
1989 Conf Semi 1 CHI at NYK 120-109
1992 Finals 2 POR at CHI 115-104
1998 Conf Semi 4 IND at NYK 118-107
2002 First Rnd 5 NJN IND 120-109
2005 First Rnd 4 SAS at DEN 126-115



Home court advantage doesn’t play much of a role in terms of who wins playoff overtime games.  The home team has a record of 103-98 (.512 W Pct) in playoff overtime games.


Below is a breakdown of which rounds have hosted the most playoff overtime games.

Round Games
Conf Semi Finals 76 38%
First Round 68 34%
Finals 31 15%
Conf Finals 26 13%



Not surprisingly this week’s playoff overtime games occurred in game four.  Game four is the most common point in a series to see a game go into overtime.




There have been six overtime games in this year’s NBA playoffs, making it thus far one of the most overtime filled playoffs in the history of the NBA

Rk Year OT Games
1 2006 10
2 2003 8
2 1993 8
2 1984 8
5 2009 7
5 1994 7
5 1992 7
8 2011 6
8 2005 6
8 1995 6



Listed below are the records of NBA franchises in playoff overtime games:

Team OT Games W L W Pct Last OT W
Lakers 43 24 19 0.558 2009
Celtics 38 17 21 0.447 2009
Knicks 27 14 13 0.519 1996
Sixers/Nationals 22 11 11 0.500 2001
Thunder/Sonics 20 9 11 0.450 2011
Pistons 19 7 12 0.368 2005
Bulls 19 9 10 0.474 2009
Suns 19 10 9 0.526 2006
Wizards/Bullets 16 7 9 0.438 1988
Trail Blazers 16 10 6 0.625 1996
Spurs 15 8 7 0.533 2011
Hawks 14 5 9 0.357 1989
Jazz 14 8 6 0.571 2008
Bucks 14 6 8 0.429 2003
Mavericks 12 7 5 0.583 2011
Rockets 12 5 7 0.417 1997
Kings/Royals 11 5 6 0.455 2002
Nuggets 11 7 4 0.636 1994
Pacers 10 5 5 0.500 2003
Magic 8 4 4 0.500 2010
Cavaliers 8 5 3 0.625 2007
Nets 7 4 3 0.571 2004
Hornets 7 4 3 0.571 2002
Warriors 6 1 5 0.167 1976
Heat 5 5 0 1.000 2011
Grizzlies 4 1 3 0.250 2011
Clippers/Braves 2 1 1 0.500 1976
Timberwolves 2 2 0 1.000 2004
Baltimore Bullets 1 0 1 0.000



The Miami Heat have never lost an playoff game.  The best winning percentage amongst NBA teams.


Reference: Basketball-Reference.com, NBA.com Playoff Results, NBAUniverse.com Playoff Results

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