Basketball is a game of halves, quarters, minutes and seconds. Each second is precious in a basketball game. When holding a lead, teams will attempt to run down the clock before taking a shot. When behind, teams strategically plan plays aimed at scoring quickly.

24-Second Clock
The 24-Second Clock is used to time possessions by the offensive team. If a team does not attempt a field goal that touches the rim within 24 seconds of gaining possession of the ball, a violation is committed and possession is awarded to the other team.

Danny Biasone, the late owner of the Syracuse Nationals, invented the shot clock following the 1953-54 season in an effort to speed up the game and prevent teams from holding the ball and stalling. Biasone chose 24 seconds by figuring that the average number of shots two teams would take during a game was 120, or 60 shots taken by each team. He divided that number into 48 minutes or 2,880 seconds, the length of a game, and ended up with the magical number of 24.

Though the 24-Second Clock was created to increase the number of shots and points scored, defensive players use it to their advantage as well. As the shot clock is winding down, defences are aware that the offensive team only has a limited amount of time to get a shot off. The defence may step up the intensity to force the offensive team into a rushed or poor shot.

Some coaches are afforded the luxury of having a great scorer or one-on-one player who can create his own shot when the shot clock is running down. This player is able to get a good look or scoring opportunity based on their ability to shoot or drive to the basket.

Anfernee Hardaway
The Suns' Anfernee Hardaway is known for his ability to post up inside.
NBAE Photos

Eight-Second Rule
A team only has eight seconds to bring the ball over the midcourt line and this is known as the eight-second rule. Once the offensive team takes the ball into the offensive end of the court, they cannot take it back into the defensive end of the court unless touched by a defensive player. This is called the backcourt violation, or is sometimes known as over and back.

Athletic teams that press full court try to force turnovers knowing the opposing team only has eight seconds to bring the ball over midcourt.

Three-Second Rule
In 1935, the Three-Second Rule was instituted to prevent offensive players from parking or camping in the key in order to be close to the basket and in a good position to score. This rule created more movement on offence and caused players to develop all of their basketball skills. Players are now more versatile than ever.

Starting in 2001-02, a defensive three-second rule prohibits a defensive player from remaining in the lane for more than three consecutive seconds without closely guarding an offensive player.

Two for One
A two for one is a strategic decision based on the time left on the clock. At the end of a quarter or the first half, a team may take a quick shot in order to gain possession for the last shot of the quarter. By shooting quickly, the offensive team gets two possessions to end the quarter, while the opposing team only gets one shot. This gives the team two opportunities to score and to gain momentum going into the next quarter.

A player that can create his own shot in the closing seconds of a half or game, known as a go-to guy, may be the difference between winning and losing.