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Jim Souhan

Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene

Souhan: Vikings schedule is challenging, manageable and wise

The Vikings should see their schedule as challenging but manageable. They probably won't win 13 games again, but they should win the division.

But that's not how I'm looking at the schedule, selfishly, and on behalf of all those Vikings fans who spend so much time and money traveling to road games.

Here's what I see:

-Green Bay early in the season. That's a big win for fans. Wisconsin can be beautiful in the fall and brutal, as well as boring, during the winter. Fewer lives will be at risk on the drive across Wisconsin for those who want to attend the game. This should be the case every year - Vikings-Green Bay at Lambeau early, at U.S. Bank late.

--No Thanksgiving Day game. Like many fans, I love watching them on TV, hate going to them on the road. Another win.

-Seattle in December. The Seahawks may be fully cognizant that their window is closed by this point in the season, and what would have looked like a difficult matchup may be substantially easier by then.

-At Philadelphia on Oct. 7, not in early September. The NFL made a wise decision here. If they had the Vikings opening the season on Thursday night football in Philadelphia, the story for the next four months would be the misbehavior of Eagles fans before the NFC title game. Now that story will last for only a few days.

-A warm December: The Vikings' last cold-weather outdoor game will be Dec. 2 at New England. They'll finish at Seattle, home against Miami, at Detroit and home against Chicago. That could be an easy stretch that allows the Vikings to make the playoffs, as well as a stretch that doesn't require hand-warmers.

For both the team and its fans, this is a pretty attractive schedule.


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Souhan: Wolves terrible offense makes Barkley look brilliant

So for the Wednesday paper, I wrote about how Charles Barkley was overstating the Wolves' offensive problems.

Then, Wednesday night, the Wolves made Barkley look brilliant.

My point was that the team's offense has been generally efficient except for late-game pressure situations. The numbers back that up. You can't rank fourth in offensive efficiency for an entire season, while missing Jimmy Butler for 23 games, without having a high-functioning offense.

What we saw Wednesday night was not a high-functioning offense.

Karl-Anthony Towns has disappeared, and while the Rockets are using a shrewd combination of doubleteams to frustrated him, he isn't the first big man in the NBA to face a difficult defense. He should be better, and the Wolves should be more intent on helping him get quality shots.

The Wolves had a chance to win Game 1 because of the Rockets' terrible shooting, and failed to deliver offensively late in the game.

They had a chance to take control of Game 2 because of James Harden's unusual struggles, and were inefficient in the first quarter when they had the lead, then just awful the rest of the way.

The biggest problem for Tom Thibodeau is the optics. The Wolves' offense isn't just struggling; it looks disjointed. There is too much talent on the floor for that to be the case.


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