Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and Detroit Pistons centre Isaiah Stewart were both ejected after a wild fracas during the Lakers' 121-116 NBA victoy in Detroit.
Stewart suffered a large cut near his right eye after getting hit in the face by James while battling for position on free throw during the third quarter of Sunday night's game.
The incident left a big gash in Stewart's face with blood pouring out of it. Stewart immediately tried to go after James and both benches cleared.
Stewart had to be restrained several times before he was escorted to the locker room.
James was assessed a Flagrant Foul 2 and teammate Russell Westbrook copped a technical after the officials reviewed the play and the fallout from it.
All parties were relieved that an all-out melee wasn't witnessed as it was on November 19, 2004, when the Pistons and Indiana Pacers had a brawl that spilled into the stands.
Lakers forward Anthony Davis said it was an unintentional act by James.
"Stewart tried to get physical with LeBron and LeBron did the same thing," Davis said. "Everybody in the league knows LeBron's not a dirty guy. As soon as he did it, he looked back at him and said, 'Oh, my bad, I didn't try to do it.'
"I don't (know) what (Stewart) was trying to do. ... I've never seen a player try to do that since I've been playing. I know we've seen it before (back) in the day. That was uncalled for. You got a cut above your eye, accidentally, it wasn't on purpose. We weren't going to allow him to keep charging our brother like that."
"Everybody did a great job trying to deescalate the situation," Davis added. "You never want it to get to that point like 17 years ago."
Pistons coach Dwane Casey said that Stewart received eight to nine stitches to repair the gash. He also said he shouldn't be disciplined by the league.
"He was upset," Casey said. "He shouldn't be facing anything."
For the Lakers, Davis had 30 points, 10 rebounds and two big blocked shots late on Pistons 20-year-old rookie Cade Cunningham. Westbrook contributed 26 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds.
Cunningham, the No.1 overall pick in the draft, had 13 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to become the youngest player in franchise history with a triple-double.
Before being ejected, James had 10 points and five assists in his second game back in the lineup after missing eight games with an abdominal strain.
The Pistons led 78-66 when the fracas erupted and were up 99-84 entering the fourth quarter.
But Westbrook and Davis both scored in double figures in the final quarter, leading a rally that gave the Lakers a win to reach .500 this season.
In Phoenix, the Suns extended their NBA-leading winning streak to 12 matches with an easy 126-97 win over the short-handed Denver Nuggets, who were without superstar Nikola Jokic (wrist).
Cam Johnson scored a career-high 22 points and Deandre Ayton added 21 for the Suns who are now 12-3 for the season, second only to western conference rivals Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors had a 119-104 home win over Toronto Raptors, with Jordan Poole scoring 33 points and Andrew Wiggins 32 as they maintained their record as the only team to surpass 100 points in every game this season.
- with Reuters
Australian Associated Press