A mundane and forgettable start to the Detroit Pistons season suddenly turned into a blood and guts battle.
The world’s most famous athlete was tossed out during a wild and tense scene at Little Caesars Arena.
Second-year center Isaiah Stewart took a shot to the face from LeBron James, resulting in a fracas between the Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers with 9:18 remaining in the third quarter on Sunday.
Making matters worse for the Pistons, they gave away a 17-point, second-half lead and lost, 121-116, spoiling Cade Cunningham’s first career triple-double.
Stewart sustained a large cut under his right eye during a Jerami Grant free throw when James struck Stewart in the face while battling for position. Stewart, who was sandwiched between DeAndre Jordan and James on the play, got up off the floor, exchanged words with the long-time superstar and then tried to go after him.
James and Stewart were both ejected, James for a flagrant-2 foul and Stewart for his furious response. Both benches eventually cleared and Stewart basically looked to fight anyone in a road uniform.
He had to be restrained numerous times by security personnel, assistant coaches, officials and players. Cunningham was among the players who tried desperately to prevent Stewart from instigating a brawl before he was finally escorted to the locker room.
The heated commotion occurred just a couple of days after the 17-year anniversary of the infamous Malice at The Palace between Indiana and the Pistons.
Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis led the Lakers’ comeback. Westbrook had 15 of his 26 points and six of his 10 assists in the fourth quarter. Davis finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two key late blocks against Cunningham and two steals in the closing seconds.
Grant led the Pistons with a season-high 36 points. Cunningham had 13 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Grant gets rolling before halftime
Grant was fairly quiet most of the first half but erupted in the last 2:18 with four 3-pointers as the Pistons grabbed a 68-61 halftime lead. Cunningham set up three of those 27-foot makes during his seven-assist first half.
Cunningham had everything but his perimeter shot going in the first half. He made a pair of layups in the first quarter but misfired on six 3-point attempts. The seventh time was the charm and came just before Grant’s flurry.
Grant continued to have the hot hand just before the altercation, making a jumper on the first possession and dunking two minutes later. He finished the quarter with 28 points as the Pistons led, 99-84, entering the fourth quarter.
Thumb sprain sidelines Hayes
Killian Hayes sat out with a left thumb sprain. The second-year guard has been dealing with the injury for awhile and aggravated it during a fall against Indiana on Wednesday. He banged it again against Golden State on Friday.
Hayes could be out multiple games. The Pistons have a back-to-back against Miami on Tuesday and Milwaukee on Wednesday.
“We’ve got to give his thumb a chance to fully heal,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s still so tender. The doctors recommended that he miss some time as far as letting his thumb heal.”
Cory Joseph started in his place and Josh Jackson, benched the past two games, rejoined the rotation.
High-flying Diallo lifts second unit
Hamidou Diallo scored a season high during the first five minutes of the second quarter.
Playing on the second unit for the third consecutive game, Diallo scored 11 points in a flash. His most impressive sequence began when he made a steal, fed the ball to Josh Jackson, then converted a lob pass with one hand. Diallo also made three other layups or dunks during that span and added in his third 3-point make of the season.
Diallo finished with 17 points and six rebounds.