Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Close Call of the Week: NBA Basketball without a Bench

This edition of Close Call of the Week concerns Wednesday evening's NBA matchup between the shorthanded Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Dressing just eight players for the game, the Lakers lost shooting Guard Nick Young and point guard Jordan Farmar to left injuries, leaving just six eligible players until center Chris Kaman fouled out early in the fourth quarter. With 3:32 remaining in the final period, Lakers center Robert Sacre committed his sixth foul. Had Sacre's sixth foul disqualified him from further participation in the contest, the Lakers would have conceivably been left with just four eligible players with which to finish the game. Instead, NBA Rule 3-I-a came into play.
If a player in the game receives his sixth personal foul and all substitutes have already been disqualified, said player shall remain in the game and shall be charged with a personal and team foul. A technical foul also shall be assessed against his team. All subsequent personal fouls, including offensive fouls, shall be treated similarly. All players who have six or more personal fouls and remain in the game shall be treated similarly.
Accordingly, Sacre was permitted to remain in the contest at the expense of a team technical foul charged to the Lakers. Had Sacre committed any further personal fouls, the Lakers would have been charged with an additional technical foul for each infraction (Sacre did not foul after 3:32). At the time of the invocation of Rule 3-I-a, the Lakers were leading, 111-101. The Lakers ultimately won the contest, 119-108.

It is this rule that enabled Don Otten in 1949 to set an NBA record with eight personal fouls over the course of just one game when his Tri-Cities Blackhawks ran out of subs when he committed his sixth foul.

Test Your Knowledge (Basketball Rules Differences): Had this same scenario occurred at the NCAA college level, the affected team would have lost Sacre's services for the remainder of the contest, as in NCAA Rule 3-1-2: "Each team may continue to play with fewer than five players when all other squad members are not eligible or able to play." If multiple players foul out, the team can continue playing until just one player remains, at which time, "that team shall forfeit unless the referee believes that both teams have an opportunity to win" (3-1-3).

NFHS high school follows the college rule (and clarifies/cleans up the misleading language provided by NCAA Rule 3-1-3: "A team must begin the game with five players, but if it has no substitutes to replace disqualified or injured players, it must continue with fewer than five. When there is only one player participating for a team, the team shall forfeit the game, unless the referee believes that team has an opportunity to win the game" (NFHS Rule 3-1-1 NOTE).

Wrap: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers, 2/5/14


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