The Los Angeles Lakers rallied from a 17-point deficit to defeat the Detroit Pistons, 121-116 on Sunday night at the Little Caesars Arena, but it was the sweat, tears and blood that took center stage as the game’s talking point.

Things began to unravel when Lebron James caught Isaiah Stewart with a blow to the right side of his face as the two battled for position on a Jerami Grant free throw early in the third quarter.

James appeared to attempt to apologize to Stewart as he lay on the court, but the 20-year-old center tried to charge toward the 36-year-old forward.


The two were immediately separated by teammates, but Stewart became enraged as blood began to stream down his face. Making repeated attempts to get at James, Stewart drew multiple technical fouls and a subsequent ejection of his own as coaches and teammates desperately tried to hold him back.

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook was assessed a technical after the officials reviewed the play and the fallout from it, determining he was an “escalator,” while there was pushing, shoving and trash talking.


It marked only the second career ejection for James in 1,318 career regular-season games. He did not speak to the media after Sunday’s game, but teammate Anthony Davis defended the strike as inadvertent.

“Everyone in the league knows LeBron isn’t a dirty guy,” said Davis, who scored 30 points with 10 rebounds as the Lakers outscored the Pistons by 17 following James’ dismissal. “As soon as he did it, he looked back and told (Stewart), ‘My bad. I didn’t try to do it.’ I don’t know what (Stewart) tried to do. Nobody on our team, 1-15, was having it.”


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

Pistons coach Dwayne Casey said, “(Stewart) was upset. I told him, ‘Don’t let this define who you are. It doesn’t define your game whatsoever.’ I felt for the young man because he’s such a competitor and he plays so hard. He’s a great kid but he felt like he got cheap-shotted across his brow and on the street, it would be a different story.

Prior to the pandemonium, Detroit led the game 78-66. The mid-westerners closed the third quarter strong and led 99-84 going into the fourth and final quarter.

Afterwards, Westbrook and Davis both scored in double figures in the fourth, leading a rally that gave the Lakers a win to reach .500 this season.


Detroit had the ball with 5.9 seconds left with the chance to potentially tie the game, but Hamidou Diallo turned the ball over and Davis made free throws to seal the victory.

The Lakers’ next game is at the Madison Square Garden against New York Knicks.