Julius Randle

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Three Things to Know: Is it time to be worried about the Utah Jazz?

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) After an ugly 1-4 road trip, is it time to be worried about the Utah Jazz? Coming into the season, a number of pundits and prognosticators picked Utah to have a chance to compete with the big boys in the West for a title (*sheepishly raises hand*). With a lock-down defense anchored by two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, the continued growth of Donovan Mitchel, and the additions of Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, this team all the pieces to compete.

Except…

•  That feared defense is actually 11th in the league for the season, and in the last 10 games they have fallen to 16th in the league giving up 4.9 more points per 100 possessions than they averaged last season. To be fair, Gobert was out for some of those games (and without him, the Greek Freak got to the rim at will and dropped 50 on Utah).

• The offense has never clicked and is currently ranked 23rd in the league.

• Mike Conley is shooting 37 percent on the season.

• The team just suffered ugly road losses, being down 40 at half to Toronto, then on Monday night losing to Philadelphia 103-94 in a game that wasn’t that close, the 76ers led by as many as 26.

After those ugly road losses to close out their road trip it feels like it’s time to ask:

Should we be worried about the Jazz?

Worried is a relative term, this is still a 12-9 team that sits as the six seed in the West and seems destined for the playoffs. Gobert is once again playing fantastic defense and has to be in the DPOY conversation (the Jazz got worse around him, but he is still playing brilliantly). Donovan Mitchell has stepped up after his summer with Team USA and is averaging 24.5 points per game with increased efficiency, and he looks like an All-Star player this season. The Jazz have not been bad.

They also haven’t looked anything like potential contenders, either.

Which is the concern. The Jazz always needed a lot of things to go right to be a big threat in the West, and so far it seems few of those things have gone according to plan, particularly on offense. This is a team that has the highest percentage in the league of offense that comes in the halfcourt (via Cleaning the Glass), meaning they just don’t get many easy buckets.

The struggling offense could have GM Dennis Lindsey looking to make a trade at the deadline to get a power forward this team needs (Danilo Gallinari would make sense with the Jazz). Utah may need a shake-up to contend.

Jazz fans shouldn’t be freaking out, but this team has not lived up to the hype or its potential yet. There’s a lot of season to go, but more than 20 games in it’s time to be a little bit worried.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo, brother Thanasis power Bucks past Knicks to 12th straight win. This game was never in doubt — Giannis Antetokounmpo put up 29 points and 15 rebounds and didn’t even have to play 22 minutes on the night. He just overpowered the Knicks. Literally. Look what he did to Julius Randle.

That’s not fair.

The Bucks won 132-88 to extend their win streak to a dozen.

Last summer, the Bucks signed Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ brother, in a clear attempt to suck up to the superstar and keep him happy (remember, Giannis will have a supermax offer from the Bucks on the table next summer and the franchise is doing everything it can to keep him).

This is the kind of game where Thanasis gets run, he had 10 points in 12 minutes of play. That brings us the stat of the night:

The Antetokounmpo brothers outscored the Knicks starters 39-37.

3) Carmelo Anthony was named the NBA Player of the Week. The narrative of Carmelo Anthony’s triumphant return to the NBA continues to morph into legend (and as with most legends, the facts start to get blurred a little to fit the narrative).

After a three-game week where he averaged 22.3 points and 7.7 rebounds a game, a week where the Trail Blazers went 3-0, Anthony was named the NBA’s Player of the Week.

It is validation for ‘Melo and makes a great story (even if nobody cares about this award most weeks). Don’t mind the fact that those three wins came because Damian Lillard returned to the lineup and he’s Portland’s best player (plus the Blazers played the struggling Bulls twice). We’re telling a story, so the fact that last week Karl-Anthony Towns, Luka Doncic and Anthony Davis all averaged more points, rebounds and assists per game than ‘Melo doesn’t matter, it doesn’t fit the narrative (the Player of the Week award has always been more about story than numbers).

To be fair, Anthony has played well in his return, giving a shorthanded Portland team a boost. It’s a small sample size (100 minutes), but Portland is +15.4 per 100 possessions when Anthony and Lillard share the court together. Six games in, picking up Anthony has worked for the Trail Blazers.

So make Anthony Player of the Week. It’s a good story. For my money, it will be interesting to watch how Anthony and Portland fare this week against the two Los Angeles teams — those are real tests.

Julius Randle is helpless trying to stop Giannis Antetokounmpo, ends up on poster (VIDEO)

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Julius Randle started to thrive in the NBA when he focused on his strengths and started playing bully ball on offense, because he can bully nearly the entire league and get to the rim.

Just not Giannis Antetokounmpo — it’s Antetokounmpo who bullies Randle.

This is simply not fair.

The Bucks are dominating the Knicks and are on their way to winning their 12th straight game.

Brad Stevens slumps back in seat, appears to say, ‘I’m done with these f—ing challenges. This is unbelievable’ (video)

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The NBA’s new coach’s challenge has gone over terribly.

From Doc Rivers repeatedly condemning the rule to Nick Nurse celebrating a successful challenge as if he won a championship to LeBron James – echoing many – pointing out that referees are far too reluctant to overturn their own calls to fans grumbling about even more stoppages… nobody seems happy.

Last night, Celtics coach Brad Stevens seemingly reached his breaking point.

Stevens challenged Grant Williams fouling Julius Randle on an and-one late in Boston’s win over the Knicks. Officials reviewed the play and ruled Williams didn’t commit a foul – but that Randle was already shooting, so his basket still counted.

Informed of the verdict, Stevens slumped into his chair and appeared to say:

I’m done with these f—ing challenges. This is unbelievable.

And this was a challenge Stevens ostensibly “won.”

He probably wanted the call reversed to a Randle offensive foul. That would’ve negated the basket.

This is the problem with challenging in a flow sport like basketball. Not only must coaches figure what the right call is, they must also determine what a reversal would mean before challenging. It’s too much guesswork.

Marcus Smart leaves game after collision (VIDEO); Celtics rally to beat Knicks

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NEW YORK — Jayson Tatum scored 30 points, Jaylen Brown added 28 and the Boston Celtics rallied past the New York Knicks 113-104 on Sunday.

That was the good news. The bad news is Marcus Smart had to leave the game after a collision trying to take a charge on Kevin Knox. Smart was grabbing his oblique as he lay on the ground, a concern because last season he missed about a month with an injury to that area. There is no update yet on his status going forward.

Kemba Walker had 15 points and 10 assists, Enes Kanter contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Brad Wanamaker also scored 11 points for Boston.

Julius Randle led the Knicks with 26 points. Dennis Smith Jr. scored 17 and R.J. Barrett had 16 for New York, which has lost six straight.

The Celtics trailed by as many as nine points in the third quarter. Kevin Knox’s long jumper put the Knicks ahead 72-63 with 7:20 left in the period, their biggest lead of the game.

The Celtics responded with an 8-1 run and pulled within 73-71 on Walker’s 3-pointer with 5:16 left.

The Knicks were still up 93-87 in the fourth, but the Celtics went on a 17-2 run to take the lead for good. Semi Ojeleye‘s 3-pointer tied the score at 95-95, Brown followed with a steal and layup, Tatum hit a free throw, and Walker and Tatum hit consecutive 3-pointers to cap the run.

Brown’s bucket with 1:39 left gave Boston its biggest lead of the game, 110-99.

The score was tied 58-58 at halftime after a back-and-forth first two quarters.

Knox finished with 11 points and Damyean Dotson added 10 for the Knicks.

Jabari Parker wishes things ended differently with Bucks, would not rule out return

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Jabari Parker was the No. 2 pick of the Milwaukee Bucks back in 2014. He was projected as a big who could step in right away and provide scoring on the block and possibly spacing out the floor in a Carmelo Anthony kind of way. He just needed to work on his defense, but there were reasons he got picked ahead of the risk that was Joel Embiid and his injuries, or Aaron Gordon, or Marcus Smart, or Julius Randle.

Within three years, the Bucks were bouncing him between the G-League and the big club. By the summer of 2018 the Bucks let him walk and get signed as a free agent by Chicago. Milwaukee had moved on.

Parker, however, still has a place in his heart for the city of Milwaukee — and he would consider a return under the right circumstances. Here is what the current Hawk told Eric Woodyard of ESPN about the new Fiserv Forum.

“It’s real special, man, how they were able to build this building,” Parker told ESPN. “I haven’t played here, but just seeing like the growth of the city, I really like the way that it’s developing.

“It’s just so sad that I’m not able to share it with them and that they moved on, but that’s fine, that’s business. But I do have like a little homesickness from being here. I just miss being here.”

Would he rule out coming back?

“Never. I would never rule out a possible return here,” Parker told ESPN. “I would never do that. It’s just so sad how it ended and I wish I could’ve stayed.”

You have to like that he wishes it ended differently, and better for both sides. Parker has found a rhythm in Atlanta, averaging 16.9 points a game for the Hawks.

Never say never in the NBA, but Parker is not the kind of defender or floor spacer the Bucks prioritize (think Brook Lopez). It seems a longshot he returns.

Milwaukee, however, has a growing and vibrant downtown around their new building — and a lot of people coming to it because of the team they have built.