The Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons have been rivals ever since the two met in the NBA Finals twice in the late 1980s, but things got way out of hand on Sunday in the third quarter of their early-season matchup. LeBron James swung at Pistons center Isaiah Stewart and connected in the eye and things escalated from there. Stewart was called for a loose ball foul, but James was ejected for a flagrant-2 foul. Russell Westbrook was also called for a technical.
Stewart, whose eye was bloodied in the incident, lost his temper. The Pistons had to hold him back on several occasions as he attempted to move back toward James or other Lakers. Both sides needed to be separated from the scrum. Stewart was ejected from the game for committing two technical fouls, but his temper had not calmed down even as he was exiting the floor.
The PA announcers in Detroit frequently instructed fans to stay in the stands. Detroit was home to the worst brawl in NBA history when then-Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest ran into the stands during a 2004 game between the Pistons and Pacers. Fortunately, Sunday’s skirmish was limited to the court, though Stewart tried to break away as he went into the tunnel.
The Pistons led the Lakers 78-66 at the time of the punch. The ejection was just the second of James’ career, following a previous 2017 incident in which he was tossed for arguing with an official. His absence further strains a Laker team that is only 8-9 through 17 games and is in the midst of a three-game losing streak. With two more games left on this road trip and a suspension potentially coming, an 8-12 record through 20 games and a six-game losing streak upon their return to Los Angeles is now a genuine possibility. Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse for the Lakers, something like this happens and they sink to a new low.