Isaiah Stewart (28) has blood around his right eye after an altercation with LeBron James (not pictured) during the third quarter at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Crew chief Scott Foster said Lakers star LeBron James was ejected from Monday’s (PHT) 121-116 victory over the Pistons for “unnecessary and excessive contact above the shoulder” during an altercation that left Detroit center Isaiah Stewart bleeding above the right eye.
“Upon the free throw the initial contact (was) deemed a loose ball foul by Isaiah Stewart and then a dead ball act by LeBron James, deemed a Flagrant Foul Penalty 2 for unnecessary and excessive contact above the shoulder,” Foster said during a postgame interview with The Athletic’s James Edwards III.
James caught Stewart with a blow to the right side of his face as the two battled for position on a free throw early in the third quarter.
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.
“Isaiah got two technical fouls for multiple unsportsmanlike acts during the altercation,” Foster said.
It marked only the second career ejection for James in 1,318 career regular-season games. He did not speak to the media after the 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.”
Said Pistons coach Dwane Casey, “(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.”