LOS ANGELES -- With just a half a game separating them going into Thursday night and less than 10 games remaining in the regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks were expected to fight tooth and nail for the No. 2 playoff seed in the Western Conference.
Just not literally.
The Lakers' 110-82 win over the Mavericks to push their lead to 1 1/2 games in the standings was marred by an ugly incident early in the fourth quarter resulting in two players from each team being ejected and a stoppage in play that lasted more than seven minutes while officials figured out the penalties.
Dallas guard Jason Terry fouled Los Angeles' Steve Blake on the floor with 9:23 remaining in the fourth quarter. As Blake started to lose his balance, Terry shoved him to the court with a two-handed push resulting in a flagrant 2 foul and an ejection from the game.
Lakers forward Matt Barnes came to Blake's defense, pushing Terry, and the two players had to be separated. As referee Joey Crawford escorted Barnes away from the paint where the foul occurred and toward the sideline where the Mavericks' bench was located, Barnes shouted at Crawford, prompting the veteran official to eject him from the game on the spot.
"There was no fight," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "There were two cock roosters bumping chests is what it was. It heated up, and there was just some pushing and shoving going on."
Said Barnes: "I saw Terry throw Steve down so I went over there to try and make sure it didn't escalate."
Kobe Bryant supported Barnes standing up for his teammate.
"That's what you're supposed to do," Bryant said. "You can't let that stuff slide. Period."
After the ejection, Barnes was held back from Crawford by Dallas assistant coach Terry Stotts, whom Barnes shoved to the floor as he made his way toward the Lakers' bench.
"One of their coaches grabbed Matt," Jackson said. "That's not what you do. You grab your own players. That's kind of the rule of the game."
Added Barnes: "I didn't even know who was grabbing me, to tell you the truth. Joey bodied me all the way in the middle of their bench. I was just trying to walk to our bench, and someone was trying to bear hug me. I didn't realize it was a coach until I turned around, after he was kind of off me. I definitely wouldn't want to push a coach, but he was bear hugging me right on their bench."
Stotts did not speak to reporters after the game.
Barnes removed his jersey and threw it into the stands as he walked through the tunnel to the Lakers' locker room.
Blake and Mavericks center Brendan Haywood were also ejected.
"Joey's real quick with that," Jackson said of Crawford. "He ejects guys if they have a hangnail."
Terry took the blame for his actions.
"It's been a long week for me," said Terry, who traveled to his hometown of Seattle on Tuesday to attend his aunt's funeral. "Emotions got the best of me tonight. I already apologized to the team. You just can't let that happen in big games. But the game was getting out of hand, so things happen."
But he was not apologetic toward Barnes.
"[He said] the same things he's been saying since he played with Golden State, which is a bunch of nothing," Terry said. "I don't really pay too much concern about it."
Things got tense several minutes later when a partially-clothed female walked down the aisle in section 102, approaching the Mavs' bench during a stoppage in play with 7:58 remaining in the fourth quarter. The fan was swarmed by three security guards, removed from the lower concourse and taken to the exit.
"She was talking crazy," one security guard said.
A total of three fans were ejected from the game, although no arrests were made, according to AEG vice president of communications Michael Roth. AEG owns Staples Center.
"It was crazy," Lamar Odom said. "It was crazy off the court and it kind of spilled into the game."
Things weren't finished there.
Lakers guard Shannon Brown was ejected with 1:52 remaining for pushing Mavs forward Brian Cardinal's hand away after Cardinal was called for a foul on Pau Gasol. Bryant called Cardinal's foul on Gasol a "cheap shot."
"That was nothing," Jackson said. "It was just because there was another thing going on that he was ejected."
The Lakers play in Utah on Friday and could be without the services of Barnes if the NBA levies a suspension for the incident.
"It's possible," Jackson said.
The Mavericks next play Saturday in Golden State, a game in which Terry believes he should be eligible to play.
"There was no intent to hurt anyone, so I don't see a suspension," Terry said.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com contributed to this report.