LeBron James is ejected before Lakers rally from 17 down to beat Pistons

Detroit's Isaiah Stewart is restrained as he goes after LeBron James during the third quarter of Sunday's game.
(Nic Antaya / Getty Images)

Lakers forward LeBron James was called for a flagrant foul 2 for his elbow that bloodied the right eye of Pistons forward Isaiah Stewart during the third quarter and was ejected from the game before Los Angeles rallied from 17 points down for a stirring 121-116 win over Detroit on Sunday night.

Stewart was ejected from the game for “multiple unsportsmanlike acts during the altercation,” NBA referee crew chief Scott Foster said after the game.

Russell Westbrook was given a technical foul for his involvement in the wild scene that took place with 9 minutes and 18 seconds left in the third and the Lakers down 78-66.

James, in his second game back after missing eight because of an abdominal strain, left the Little Caesars Arena court with 10 points and five assists.

James declined to speak to the media after the game, but Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he and his star did talk in the locker room.


“Yeah, that’s really something that should stay in the locker room,” Vogel said. “I mean, I talked to him, yup, but I’m not going to disclose what his message was.”

Foster explained why James, who was jeered when the replay of the fight was shown on the video screen and booed when he walked off the court, was ejected.

“Upon the free throw, the initial contact deemed a loose-ball foul by Isaiah Stewart and then a dead-ball act by LeBron James, deemed a flagrant foul penalty two for unnecessary and excessive contact above the shoulder,” Foster said.

With James in the locker room, Anthony Davis became a force for the Lakers with 30 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, five blocked shots and four steals, carrying a big load to help them break a three-game losing streak. He had a big steal late in the game and made two free throws with 1.1 seconds left to seal the victory, which evened the Lakers record at 9-9.

His 12 points on five-for-five shooting, four rebounds, three assists and three blocks in the fourth quarter helped the Lakers ease the pain of losing James.

Westbrook was also a force for the Lakers, just missing a triple-double with 26 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. In the fourth quarter, he had 15 points, five rebounds, six assists and a resounding dunk over Hamidou Diallo.

“We just wanted to get the win for [LeBron], get the win for our team,” Davis said, “and get back in the win column.”

Stewart repeatedly went after James and was unwilling to leave the court while doing all he could to get to the Lakers forward. Eventually Stewart was restrained and pulled off the court by Detroit personnel.

Even then, the Lakers looked and pointed at the tunnel near their bench to make sure Stewart wasn’t coming back to try to get to James.

The referees walked toward the tunnel to make sure the situation was under control. It took about 10 minutes for things to be sorted out and for play to resume.

Things began to unravel when Jerami Grant was shooting two free throws and James and Stewart were side by side along the lane. James swung his left elbow and hit Stewart in the right eye.

James reached out for a moment to seemingly apologize, but Stewart already was irate at what happened. He rushed three different times toward James.

Davis recalled the ugly incident between the Pistons and Pacers known as the “Malice at the Palace” in Auburn Hills in 2004 and didn’t want the same thing unfolding.

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“I guess he had it on his mind he wanted to do something. And when he got it on his mind, I guess there wasn’t no stopping him,” Davis said. “We were ready. I mean, we don’t promote violence, but what can we do when a guy keeps charging, charging, charging and wants to fight our guys? We’re not going to let him do that. We’re not going to just stand there and just watch it.

“So, we’re not promoting violence, I’m not promoting violence, but our security and the security on their side did a hell of a job. A hell of a job.”


The Lakers will meet the Pistons at Staples Center next Sunday.