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Elam Ending, explained: NBA All-Star Game target scoring and rules

The NBA All-Star Game adopted its own version of the “Elam Ending” starting in 2020, and has stuck with the format ever since. With the 2023 NBA All-Star Game in Salt Lake City, Utah featuring Team LeBron vs. Team Giannis, the winner will again be decided by a target score and not a running clock during the fourth quarter.

Here’s how the NBA’s version of the Elam Ending works for the 2023 All-Star Game:

  • Team LeBron and Team Giannis will play normal 12-minute periods for the first three quarters of the game. With each new quarter, the score restarts at 0-0, but the cumulative score still matters in the end. More on that in a minute.
  • Team LeBron and Team Giannis are each playing for charities. The winner of each quarter will donate a big cash prize to the charity they are playing for. A total of $750K will be donated on the night.
  • Here’s how the NBA explained each charity and its mission: “Team LeBron will play for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Utah, which creates and supports one-to-one mentoring relationships that ignite the power and promise of youth. Team Giannis will play for Raise the Future, which aims to decrease the number of youth in foster care and increase the chances of lifelong connection by providing trauma-healing services to young people and families.”
  • The cumulative score comes into play in the fourth quarter. At the start of the period, the team that’s winning the cumulative score will add 24 points to their total, and that’s becomes the target score that will decide the game. For example: Let’s say Team LeBron leads 150-140 at the end of three quarters. The target score will be set at 174 (150 + 24), and the first team to hit 174 points wins the game. The NBA uses 24 as a way to honor Kobe Bryant.

The NBA All-Star Game’s system is slightly different from the original Elam Ending. In the original Elam Ending, the game clock is turned off at the first whistle with up to four minutes remaining, and eight points is added to the winning team’s score to create the target score.

Why does the NBA All-Star Game use a target score to decide winner?

The NBA wanted to eliminate teams intentionally fouling at the end of the All-Star Game to get the ball back. With a target score to decide the game, the losing team doesn’t need to foul to have a shot if it’s close late: they just need to keep getting stops on defense and scores on offense.

Another benefit of target scoring is that every game ends on a game-winning shot. The only downside is that can be a free throw, which is boring. Hopefully the refs swallow the whistles late.

2023 NBA All-Star Game: Start time, TV, how to watch

Date: Sunday, Feb. 19

Time: 8:00 p.m. ET

TV and streaming: TNT

DraftKings Sportsbook odds: Team LeBron -2.5

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