The first meeting between Isaiah Stewart and LeBron James since their incident and suspensions didn’t include another altercation, but featured plenty of boos from the Staples Center crowd directed at the Pistons’ center.
According to the Southern California News Group, Lakers fans booed Stewart before tip and during a first-quarter trip to the foul line. He missed the first shot but sank the second, and finished the game — a 110-106 victory for the Lakers — with five points on 2-of-7 shooting in 27 minutes.
James elbowed Stewart in the face during a Nov. 21 meeting between the two teams, was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ultimately ejected from the game in the third quarter. The pair had been lined up next to each other during a free throw, and James said that his “chop down” was to get Stewart’s arm off of him and wasn’t intentional. But he still drew blood, and a scrum ensued when Stewart shoved back at James and players from both teams got involved.
Both players were suspended as a result of the incident, with James missing one game and Stewart sitting out two.
“That part was on purpose but the point of my hand hitting his face was not on purpose,” James said, via Sports Illustrated. “You can literally go through numerous of plays in the NBA where guys are chopping down on guys’ arms or hands trying to get them off of them. And if you really look at the play closely, he kind of got off balance when I chopped down and that’s how his head went into my hand.”
“…It wasn’t intentional at all. I’ve never been that player. I’ve never ever tried to seek a face contact like that. It’s just not a part of my game or a part of basketball at all.”
The Lakers defeated the Pistons by five points that night, and won, 110-106, on Sunday behind James’ 33 points to bump their record back to .500 at 11-11. Their trip to Sacramento on Tuesday is the Lakers’ chance at going above that even mark for the first time in almost two weeks.