LeBron James and Isaiah Stewart banned for on-court melee

LeBron James has been suspended from Tuesday’s game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden after being ejected for bloodied the face of Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart while boxing for a rebound, leading to a lengthy fight.

The ejection, during Sunday’s game between the Lakers and Pistons in Detroit, was just James’ second in his 19-season career. Stewart, who responded when he was punched in the face by James by charging at him, has also been banned for two games. Stewart will miss the Detroit home game against Miami on Tuesday and the road game in Milwaukee on Wednesday.

The incident started in the third quarter when James and Stewart became entangled while boxing on a rebound from a missed free throw and James’ hand hit Stewart in the face. Stewart got down on one knee and James held out an arm as if to apologize.

Stewart then jumped to his feet and confronted James, forcing players from both teams to join the scrum. Stewart, who had significant bleeding around his eye, was twice stopped from breaking free and fighting again.

Both players were ejected and Russell Westbrook of the Lakers was assessed technically for being “an escalator and not a peacemaker,” referee Scott Foster told reporters.

Neither James nor Stewart commented after the game.

(The incident begins at 4:44 in the video.)

“Everyone in the league knows Bron is not a dirty guy,” his Lakers teammate Anthony Davis said after the game. “As soon as he did it, he looked back at him and said to him, ‘Oh, my mistake. I didn’t try.’”

Pistons coach Dwane Casey said of Stewart: “His eye exploded and he was upset for a reason.”

In total, the game was delayed by more than 15 minutes. The Lakers, trailing 12 at the time of the incident, rallied to win, 121-116.

The NBA, which announced the penalties, said Stewart had been suspended for escalating the situation by repeatedly and aggressively pursuing James. The league described James as “recklessly punching Stewart in the face and starting an altercation on the field.”

Stewart was charged two technical fouls during the incident and James was charged a blatant 2 foul for hitting Stewart. Both penalties resulted in automatic ejections. The Pistons and Lakers meet again on Sunday in Los Angeles.

James’ previous dismissal came in 2017 for arguing with an umpire while with the Cavaliers.

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