With 4 1/2 minutes to play in Wednesday night's matchup between the Indiana Pacers and Portland Trail Blazers — a game the Pacers had led by 18 points just seven minutes earlier, but that Portland had tightened up thanks to a 21-9 run — Pacers center Roy Hibbert fouled Blazers point guard while trying to hedge on a high screen-and-roll. When Lillard stepped to the line, cameras showed that he had suffered a pretty big cut on his right elbow, possibly when Hibbert poked at the ball with his left hand:
Damian Lillard had a gash on his right elbow after colliding with Roy Hibbert. (Screencap via Synergy Sports)
The Guidelines for Infection Control in the Official Rules of the National Basketball Association read, in part, as follows:
If a player suffers a laceration or a wound where bleeding occurs or if blood is visible on a player or his uniform, the officials shall suspend the game at the earliest appropriate time and allow a maximum of 30 seconds for treatment. After that time, the head coach shall be informed that he has the option to substitute for the player, call a regular timeout or a 20-second timeout.
The officials didn't seem to notice, since play wasn't stopped for Lillard to receive treatment on the cut until nearly three minutes later. Part of the reason why they didn't notice sooner, though, can be credited to Hibbert, as captured by eagle-eyed YouTube user somekido17:
Shrewd move pulling those massive shorts up high enough to cover up that blood stain, Roy. Not the most hygienic or fashion-forward, necessarily, but still: Smart. Plus, the quick look around you, the little "hope nobody saw that" face ... priceless.
On one hand, that's clearly a bit of intentional duplicity on Hibbert's part — he wanted to stay in the game with his team holding on to an increasingly tenuous lead that had dwindled thanks, in part, to unsteady post play from the Ian Mahinmi-Tyler Hansbrough tandem and to Portland crashing the offensive glass to take advantage of Hibbert's early quarter absence.
Plus, after four-plus largely fallow minutes in which they either clanged a jumper or turned the ball over on seven of eight possessions, the Pacers had finally started to regain their offensive footing a bit, trading buckets with the Blazers to keep Portland from getting the game within one score. With a bit of rhythm finally restored to the Pacer offense, dangerous Blazers big man LaMarcus Aldridge out there to guard and the clock ticking away, the 7-foot-3 All-Star took measures to prevent a stoppage in play that would have led, however briefly, to his exit from the game — which, while admirable, is kind of against the rules.
On the other, while Blazers fans might cry foul, it's not like Lillard — who made one of his two free throws, continued to play, and even headed back into the tall trees on a rim-attack a couple of minutes later that was denied by George Hill — was showing off his leaking elbow and making sure the officials were aware of it. Like Hibbert, he knew he'd have to come off the floor to get the elbow treated and make sure things were safe, and with the game still in reach and only Nolan Smith on the bench to spell him, he just kept playing and did what he could to stay in the game. If he had shorts big enough to be able to pull them over his elbows without raising suspicion, he'd probably do it. He's a real gamer, this Lillard kid.
As it turns out, Hibbert's continued presence wasn't necessarily a game-deciding factor — he did body up Aldridge down the stretch and use a couple of fouls on the Blazers star, and he did grab a big defensive rebound off a J.J. Hickson miss with Portland down five and less than one minute remaining, but the Pacers late-game offense largely ran, as it had throughout the night, through small forward Paul George (22 points on 7-for-15 shooting, including 4 for 9 from beyond the arc, to go with eight rebounds and five assists) and point guard George Hill (18 points, albeit on 5-for-13 shooting, and three assists). In the end, that was enough for Indiana to hold on to a 99-92 win that pushes Indiana above .500 at 10-9 and into a tie with the Chicago Bulls atop the volatile (if not especially interesting) Central Division.
Lillard led the Blazers with 23 points, six assists and zero turnovers in nearly 43 minutes of work, but Portland still falls into the Northwest's cellar at 8-11. Hibbert finished with 10 points (on a bummerific 3 for 13 from the floor), seven rebounds, three blocks and probably at least a couple of Steve Urkel jokes running through his head, because we know he is good at comedy and friends with comedians.
Hat-tip to r/NBA.