Derrick Jones Jr. deserves a bit of leeway when it comes to dunks. He’s a Slam Dunk Contest winner, after all, and with a nickname like Airplane Mode, he can certainly fly. But there’s a time and a place for big dunks, and a 23-point deficit in the second half isn’t one of them.
In the third quarter of the Los Angeles Clippers’ blowout victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, Jones saw an opportunity for a highlight despite his team trailing big. He took a pass from Damian Lillard and soared for the dunk, but got his comeuppance when he failed to finish the slam.
In fairness to Jones, he makes a good percentage of the highlight dunks he tries. He wouldn’t have won a Dunk Contest if he hadn’t. He’s athletic enough to pull plays like this off, and dunk of the year candidates have to come with a high degree of difficulty. In the famous words of Michael Scott (via Wayne Gretzky), you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take. Jones went for a memorable dunk and came up laughably short.
And given the game situation, there’s a bit of karma involved in that. Yes, such a slam might have ignited some momentum and potentially helped spark a comeback, but realistically, when you’re down 23 points, you just need your shots to go in. Don’t get fancy. Don’t seek out highlights. Just put the ball in the hoop. Jones didn’t do that here, and it created one of the early season’s funniest lowlights.