When the offseason begins to slow down before training camp starts, it's the perfect time to relive some of the most interesting and curious stories that the NBA has seen. In this case, we want to recall a rule that you may have never heard of - one that has only came into play once in a 2014 game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers.
First, some context.
At the time, going up against the Cavaliers was a veteran Lakers team that was already diminished with injuries, including stars like Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Steve Nash. Forced to start the game with just eight players, the Lakers suited up a roster of Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar, Wesley Johnson, Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre as a starting five, with Kendall Marshall, Nick Young and Chris Kaman as the only options off the bench.
That isn't particularly strange, though. We've seen many cases of teams facing their opponents with the minimum of eight active players. However, the situation would become increasingly problematic for Los Angeles as the game went on. Young was injured in the second quarter, then Kaman committed his sixth foul to be disqualified, then Farmar suffered an injury in the fourth quarter.
When Farmar left the game with under five mintues to play, the Lakers held a 107-99 lead over a struggling Cavaliers team, but faced a worrisome situation: they only had five players available. The roster was down to Blake, Marshall, Johnson, Kelly and Sacre, and the Canadian big man Sacre already had four personal fouls.
Just seconds following Farmar's injury exit, Sacre committed a foul on Cavaliers forward Anthony Bennett, his fifth. Next time down the court, the Lakers' big man committed another foul, this time, on CJ Miles. This was Sacre's sixth personal foul, which should disqualify him from the game... right? Not in this instance.
Anyone who follows the NCAA or FIBA basketball can remember watching games in which, due to different circumstances, a team ends up with fewer than five players on the court. It doesn't happen too often, but it does happen. The interesting thing about the NBA, the rule book doesn't allow teams to play with fewer than five players on the floor.
As a result, after a few minutes of the referees discussing what happens next, a shocking and relatively unknown rule was put into place. With no replacement player available for the Lakers, Sacre could continue playing with six fouls, a dream for every physical big man who has played the game.
Of course, there is a technicality that goes along with this ruiling. Every extra foul that Sacre committed would also be sanctioned as a technical foul toward his team. Fortunately for the Lakers, the Canadian did not commit antoher foul and they were able to go on to win 119-108.
For what it's worth, the record for fouls in a game actualy belongs to forward Cal Bowdler, the only player ever charged with seven fouls in the same game (Hawks-Blazers in 1999. Although, his case was not due to an obscure rule like Sacre's, it was just human error from the scorer's table.
Don't do as we say, but what if a team claimed that all of their substitutes were injured to keep a star player on the court after their sixth foul? We have never - and likely will never - see anything like that, but we have seen some strategies just as bizarre to try and help pull off a victory.
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