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Coral present a beginners guide to the NBA

The National Basketball Association is one of the fastest growing professional sports leagues, both in North America and around the world. With players from 39 countries playing in the NBA in 2014, basketball has clearly established itself as an international sport, perhaps second only to football.

While basketball appears to be a fundamentally easy sport to understand, it incorporates some sophisticated rules, related to scoring and league structure that are important for those betting to understand before placing their first wager on an NBA game.

Below are some quick pointers for sports fans who are new to the NBA, which will help them to follow the game and make wise decisions when placing a bet on NBA action.

The NBA is comprised of 30 teams aligned into two conferences, with each conference comprised of three divisions, made up of five teams each.

The Western Conference includes the Northwest Division, Pacific Division and Southwest Division, while the Eastern Conference is made up of the Atlantic, Central and Southeast Divisions.
The NBA regular season begins around November 1 and ends in mid-April, with each team playing 82 regular season games.

There are two primary ways of scoring points in basketball; field goals and free throws. The value of a field goal is determined by where the scoring shot takes place. If a field goal is scored on a shot taken from outside the three-point line, the team is awarded three points. If the successful shot is taken from inside the three-point line, two points are awarded.

When a team takes possession of the ball, they must attempt a shot at the basket before a 24-second shot clock expires. The shot-clock ensures that a game is played to a high tempo, leading to great point production.

Free throws are awarded to a team in the event of a rule violation known as a foul. Depending on the type of foul committed, a team may be awarded one, two or three unopposed free throws, which are taken from the free-throw line, which exists directly in front of the basket, just inside the three-point line.

Games are divided into four 12-minute quarters, with a half-time break which is typically 15 minutes in length during the regular season.

If a game is tied at the end of four quarters, a five-minute overtime period will be played. If the game remains tied at the end of the five-minute overtime, additional five-minute overtime periods are played until a winner is determined.

NBA standings reflect wins, losses, win percentage, and games back (GB), which reflects how many games a team trailing the division/conference leader must win, combined with the number of games the leading team must lose for the trailing team to capture first place.

For example, let’s say the Milwaukee Bucks lead the Eastern Conference with a won-loss record of 20-5. This gives them a win percentage of .800.

Now, let’s say the New York Knicks have a record of 15-10. This places the Knicks five games back of Milwaukee, since New York needs five wins, combined with five Milwaukee losses to catch the Bucks in the standings.

At the conclusion of the regular season, 16 of the NBA’s 30 teams qualify for the playoffs, which consist of four rounds using a best-of-seven format.

The top eight teams in each conference qualify, with the three division winners typically occupying the top three seedings, and the bottom five seeds determined by best record regardless of division.

In the first round of the NBA playoffs, the No. 1 seed in each conference plays the No. 8 seed, No.2 plays No. 7, and so. In subsequent rounds, best seeds play worst seeds, culminating in the Conference Championship round, whose winners earn a berth in the NBA Finals, which typically gets under way in early June, with a champion crowned later that month.