The fiery fracas between Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit Pistons players after LeBron James‘ backhander on Isaiah Stewart has split opinions across the league.
James was ejected for the act which left Stewart’s face bloodied as he charged towards the four-time NBA MVP to seek retribution.
The ugly scenes proved to be somewhat of a flashpoint for the Lakers, who outscored Detroit 37-17 in the final quarter to seal a 121-116 comeback win.
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With James in the locker room, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook starred in the final quarter, with Westbrook scoring 15 of his 26 points in the final 12 minutes of play.
While some fans even labelled James’ closed-fist backhander of Stewart as “the ultimate cheap shot”, Davis hit back at such suggestions.
“Everyone in the league knows LeBron is not a dirty guy,” he told reporters after the game.
“[James] accidentally hit him and as soon as he did it, he looked back and said, ‘Oh my bad, I didn’t try to do it’.
“I don’t know what [Stewart] was trying to do, but I know nobody on our team one-through-15 was having it, we’re trying to protect our brother.
“I’ve never in 10 years seen a player try to do that since I’ve been playing, obviously we’ve seen it before back in the day.
“It 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 at our brother like that. We just wanted to get the win for him.”
However, others hit back at the suggestion that James intentionally hit Stewart in the face, pointing to his reaction immediately after the incident.
James and Stewart weren’t the only players to cause a social media storm, with fans immediately noticing an agitated Russell Westbrook frantically running around on the outskirts of the messy skirmish.
Westbrook was handed a technical foul for his troubles, a fact that surprised him after the game.
“I got a tech? Oh wow! Why’d I get a tech?” he said when reporters notified him of the tech foul call.
“I didn’t know I had a tech. Wow. That’s interesting. I don’t know what I did, but whatever. They had to put it on somebody.
It is yet to be determined whether James and Stewart will receive suspensions for their actions.
The Lakers will face the New York Knicks next with a trip to Madison Square Garden scheduled for Wednesday morning (AEDT).