LeBron James was ejected after bloodying Detroit’s Isaiah Stewart with a swipe to the face in the Los Angeles Lakers 121-116 victory over the Pistons on Sunday night in Detroit.
The NBA superstar was thrown out for just the second time in his career after striking Stewart in the face while the pair were battling for rebounding position.
Stewart, who was cut above the right eye, tried to confront James. That led to a scrum of players from both teams coming together with several coaches and security people also joining the fray as the Piston player repeatedly tried to get back at James.
The incident occurred with 9:18 remaining in the third quarter and the Lakers trailing 79-67. The Lakers came into the contest on a three-game losing streak and a disappointing 8-9 on the season.
Anthony Davis, who scored a team-high 30 points, came to the defense of his teammate after the game in which the Lakers came from behind to win.
“Everyone in the league knows that (James) isn’t a dirty guy. As soon as he did it, he looked back and told him, ‘My bad. I didn’t try to do it.’ I don’t know what (Stewart) was trying to do. Nobody on our team, 1-15, was having it,” he said.
Stewart was initially whistled for a loose ball foul. Following a video review, James was then slapped with a flagrant foul two and sent to the locker room.
Stewart was handed two technical fouls and thrown out, and Lakers guard Russell Westbrook was called for a technical foul.
James finished with 10 points and five assists.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he was relieved to see that it didn’t escalate further.
“Our guys did a good job of protecting our teammate. You want peacekeepers in those situations. Forming a wall around a teammate and standing up before it turned into something uglier.”
The only other time James has been ejected from a game was November 2017 against the Miami Heat.
“His eye was cracked open. He (Stewart) was upset for a reason, but I don’t think LeBron is a dirty player,” said Pistons coach Dwane Casey.
The Lakers five-game road trip continues Wednesday against Indiana.
Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 overall pick in the entry draft, had 13 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to become the youngest player in Pistons franchise history with a triple-double.
Elsewhere, Paul George scored a game-high 29 points as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Luka Doncic-less Dallas Mavericks 97-91 in Southern California.
Reggie Jackson scored 23 points for the Clippers, who won the first game of a back-to-back series between the two Western Conference teams.
Jackson made four threes and Ivica Zubac recorded his fifth double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Clippers, who snapped a two-game losing skid.
Kristaps Porzingis led Dallas with 25 points and eight rebounds while Jalen Brunson added 20 points and eight assists for the Mavs, who lost their third straight.
Doncic missed his third straight game with knee and ankle problems.
Dallas shot just 20 percent overall from beyond the arc and were outscored 25-15 in the third quarter.
The Clippers parlayed precision perimeter shooting in the third to take a 71-62 lead into the fourth.
The teams will meet again in Los Angeles on Tuesday.