DETROIT — Standing at 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds of stocky muscle, Isaiah Stewart is frightening enough when he waits to block shots on the rim.
But it was another matter entirely on Sunday night: Stewart, bloody and enraged, was shooing away the Pistons’ assistant coaches as he went after LeBron James, looking for an eye.
The ugly scene at Little Caesars Arena led to two takedowns: one for James, cocking Stewart in his face as they hit the lane on a free throw, then one for Stewart charging like a raging bull. .
The 121–116 win was an impossible comeback, but also a necessary result for the Lakers (9–9), who have been struggling hard in the first quarter of the season. If not for the dust-up, the game’s enduring memory would have been Anthony Davis having blocked No. 1 draft pick Cade Cunningham twice in the same possession, then scoring at the other end and scoring the win behind the Lakers. Of. as 17 points.
But the prospect that James faces suspension for drawing blood after killing the 21-year-old may be of greatest concern.
It has already been one of the toughest starts of the season for James, who missed 10 of the Lakers’ last 17 games with ankle and abdominal injuries. It was in the middle of a forgettable night, 4 for 7 with 10 points and 5 assists, the team was down 12 points. Frustration was brewing: in the time before the play, James was screaming at his own shambles.
With 9:18 remaining in the third quarter, James snapped as Stewart pushed into the alley. In the second of two free throws from Anthony Davis, he threw his left hand at Stewart, striking his face and drawing blood down his eye and into his mouth. Stewart rose slowly, then aggressively approached James, who appeared to be apologetic after seeing the consequences of the trauma.
In Detroit – the market in which the NBA experienced its worst fighting event – tensions escalated rapidly. Both teams dropped to the floor attempting to separate James and Stewart, while continuing to jaw back and forth. The crowd also raised their voices, as the Pistons’ PA strictly ordered spectators not to throw objects on the court, lest they be evicted and “sent to jail.”
Eventually about 10 minutes of actual time was spent, as both teams were resettled on their benches, and the referee reviewed the footage. Ultimately, Chief Officer Scott Foster ejects James and Stewart, issuing a technical glitch to Westbrook.
The scramble could be at its lowest point of the season so far, as the Lakers could not record a defensive stop on the Pistons, who entered with a 4–11 record. The defensive struggles that have so far defined the season continued with a disappointing second quarter, as the Lakers allowed Detroit’s bench to open a shooting period of 10 for 13, then Jeremy Grant struck it with four straight 3-pointers. has been closed.
The third quarter saw the Lakers drift without James, trailing 15 points at the end of the period. But in the fourth, Westbrook sprang up something: he injured the Lakers with 15 of his 26 points in the final frame, including back-to-back sequences when he hit a dunk on Hamidou Diallo, then cut Detroit. Removed the 3-pointer for . lead for one.
After a few back-and-forth minutes, the Lakers took a two-point lead after Westbrook and Davis each saw the rim, a 17-point deficit.
Davies put his stamp on things by dismissing Cunningham, once at the 3-point line, then after trying to drive to the rim. Davis’ fourth quarter intensity also translated into an aggressive end, where he scored 12 of his 30 points in the last frame.
In the end, the Lakers put out the Pistons 37–17 in the fourth quarter, resulting in Davis stealing a pass from Diallo when Detroit had less than six games left to tie.
The Lakers will play the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.