Dahntay Jones' Huge Blunders Marred an Otherwise Excellent Individual Game

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1GpyPym5GA&version=3&hl=en_US]

Last night during Indiana’s overtime loss to Miami, Dahntay Jones single-handedly cost his team at least 3 points in the final 70 seconds of regulation. His first mistake came with his team up 4 points and a little over a minute left. While watching live, I actually missed his amateurish-looking turnover (at 2:26 in the video above) because I was looking down to type a tweet about how well he boxed out Dwyane Wade to get the rebound.

The box-out/rebound sequence seemed worthy of praise to me since Dahntay had just had some bad luck a few minutes earlier when he did a great job streaking down the court to get a near-certain dunk in transition (at 1:56 in the video), only to have Dwyane, as he is wont to do, come out of nowhere to block his flush attempt (and perhaps get a little body. Dunno. Looked clean enough.) I always appreciate it when a player has something not go his way but still mentally stays in the game well enough to remain committed to fundamental basketball. Like Dahntay did on that textbook box-out to win the rebound (at 2:11).

But, yeah, that weak cross-court pass he made after panicing while being trapped bringing up the ball is pretty inexcusable. It should be noted that, had the guy semi-lurking not have been LeBron James (or Andre Igoudala), it may have just gone down as a scary-looking, ill-advised pass that ended up in Danny Granger’s hands and gave the Pacers a late-in-the-shot-clock start to their offense on a key possession. But since LeBron is a freak, he jumped the passing lane easily and took it the other way. I doubt Paul Pierce or Ron Artest get to that ball. Still, horrible decision, horrible pass.

Worse still was what Dahntay did on the next possession. Darren Collison drove the lane and short-armed a runner in the lane. Dwayne Wade finally came away with the ball after the miss and made an very nice outlet pass to a LeBron, who was running a fly route towards the other goal. Dahntay had no prayer of stopping the play and should have just let LeBron get the dunk and tie the game. Instead he foolishly tried to foul James to prevent the dunk in vein and turned the score into a three-point play (at 2:45 in the video).

With these two major blunders late, he didn’t lose the team the game, but he certainly didn’t help.

But in actuality, he really did.

Unfortunately, nobody is going to remember how well he played throughout the game. His stat line isn’t even particularly impressive, even if 11 points in 22 minutes is just fine (not to mention the best per-minute production of any Pacer scorer last night). But he did much more than that to make the second unit productive and keep an early Pacers lead from evaporating even more quickly than it did. This bench has not played well very often over the past month. When George Hill was out for an extended stretch, they were routinely god-awful. But last night, with Hill sidelined with a shoulder injury, they were productive at times.

The video above shows some of that. He ran the floor, ran the pick and roll, made some excellent entry passes (a rarity to see from this franchise over the past half-decade) and even knocked down some threes. And the pass he makes to find AJ Price at the 0:28 mark in the video above might be the best find I’ve ever seen him make.

By all means, everyone should hammer him for those two (basically) game-losing mistakes. Winning time is winning time after all and if you screw up at the wrong time, whatever else you did doesn’t ultimately matter.

But this is just the regular season and Dahntay has been a surprisingly good offensive player off the bench for the Pacers, who have had to otherwise deal with an injury-depleted second unit with Hill and Jeff Foster missing many games and Tyler Hansbrough often playing horribly.

Ultimately, if Dahntay makes mistakes like he did in the final 70 seconds of regulation, this team’s bench either needs a significant upgrade at the trade deadline or they will be in a lot of trouble. But if he plays like he did for the first 46 minutes and 50 seconds? They might be just fine.

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