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What is the Elam Ending? How target score system used to end NBA All-Star Game works

The NBA All-Star Game needed a makeover. Chris Paul knew it. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver knew it.  

First, the NBA began “drafting” All-Star teams with the leading vote-getter from each conference picking teams playground style regardless of conference affiliation – starters selected first followed by reserves.

Next, the NBA introduced the Elam Ending – a targeted score – to finish the game instead of playing a 12-minute fourth quarter. It has resulted in fun matchups and better endings.

No one is expecting an All-Star Game to resemble Game 7 of the NBA Finals, but All-Star Games nearing 200 points for a single team in 2016 and 2017 prompted changes.

“The good thing about our league is we’re always adding things and trying new things and trying to figure out from my fans what they like,” Paul said in 2020. “This was an idea I brought to Adam. Thankfully, we tried it out.”

Let’s take a look at the targeted score and how the All-Star Game ends:

What is the Elam Ending?

Searching for a better way for basketball games to conclude in 2007, Ball State professor Nick Elam “brainstormed a way to revolutionize basketball simply by removing the clock from the end of the game. At first, even Nick was skeptical. But through tireless research and exploration he became convinced the idea had merit,” according to Elam’s website.

In short, the Elam Ending pushes both teams to play to a targeted score, minus a game clock, with the team reaching that score first winning the game. So, let’s say a game is 80-79, and the targeted scored is 90, the first team to 90 wins.

The goal is to bring better offense and defense to the conclusion of a game without late-game shenanigans such as constantly fouling and draining the shot clock to take time off the game clock.

How does the NBA All-Star Game end?

The NBA used a targeted score for the first time at the 2020 All-Star Game in Chicago using this format: the first three quarters are played under the normal 12-minute quarter, and then the target score “will be the leading team’s total score after the first three quarters plus 24 points,” according to the NBA. (The 24 is for Kobe Bryant’s No. 24.)

For example, if Team Z leads Team Y 100-95 after the first three quarters, the target score is 124, and the first team to reach 124 is the winner in a quarter played with no game clock.

What have been the results?

In 2020, the targeted score produced an exciting finish. With Team Giannis leading Team LeBron 133-124 after the third quarter, Team LeBron rallied for a 157-155 victory. It was less competitive in 2021 with Team LeBron defeating Team Durant 170-150.

Last season, Team LeBron defeated Team Durant 163-160. The final possessions mattered. James needed to make his fadeaway jump shot to win the game or Team Durant would’ve had a chance to win with a 3-pointer.

Source: USA Today