New York Knicks’ power forward Bobby Portis was ejected from Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers after taking a nasty swipe at Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s head– forcing him into concussion protocol.

Leading the Knicks by just nine points halfway through the second quarter, Caldwell-Pope got a pass from center court and broke toward the net for a layup. Portis tried to swipe the ball away from behind, but instead knocked the 6-foot 5-inch, 250-pound pro to the ground with an open hand to the head.

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Caldwell-Pope, 26, lay on the ground in pain before walking off the court, ESPN reported. He returned in the third quarter with just 2:21 remaining after passing concussion evaluation.

Portis was ejected from the game after being assessed a flagrant foul.

But he said: “It wasn’t intentional at all.”

“I went for the ball. My intent was never to hurt anybody or anything like that. Just trying to make a play on the ball. Missed the ball and hit him in the head. My apologies to Caldwell-Pope. Happy to see him go out and do his thing, come back into the game and impact the game,” Portis said.

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Knicks’ interim head coach Mike Miller backed Portis’ claim, saying “he really was going for the ball.”

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is attended to after the was hit in the head while shooting by New York Knicks forward Bobby Portis during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is attended to after the was hit in the head while shooting by New York Knicks forward Bobby Portis during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

“It was unfortunate, but it made us kind of play some different lineups and do some different things. And you know when guys are out, we have opportunities for other guys, and that’s the way we have to approach it and have confidence that the guys are going to go out there add something, do a good job,” he told reporters after the game.

But not everyone on the court was convinced the hit was unintentional.

“It was [dirty],” the Lakers’ LeBron James said, according to ESPN. “There was no play on the ball [by Portis]. I saw the windup happen before the actual impact. I saw the way he was chasing KCP down. And then the windup. I saw that play happening before it actually happened.”

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He continued: “I knew it definitely wasn’t a basketball play.”

The Lakers went on to win 117-87 over the Knicks, joining the Milwaukee Bucks as the NBA’s only 30-game winners this season so far.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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