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Souhan on Sports

Jim Souhan analyzes the local sports scene

Souhan: Dunn already blowing past Rubio

The Timberwolves faced an intellectual as well as physical challenge on Tuesday, facing the savvy San Antonio Spurs. Ricky Rubio continued his awful shooting and lackluster play, and Kris Dunn, his projected replacement, put together one of his best games as a pro.

Rubio made two of his nine shots and finished with four points, six assists, one steal, one block and one ugly turnover in 31 minutes.

Dunn's shot looks the best it has all season. He hit two long jumpers early and wound up with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting. He had one rebound, two assists and two turnovers.

The eye test was even more conclusive. Rubio continues to look frustrated on the court while Dunn, even at his worst, looks aggressive.

Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau praised Dunn's play of late after the game. That nobody even asked about Rubio indicates where his new baseline standard is.

When the Wolves drafted Dunn, I thought the Wolves would look to trade Rubio during one of the next two offseasons, depending on Dunn's development. Now the best reason for not trading Rubio is that his value may be at an all-time low (when he's healthy.)

What's particularly galling about Rubio is that the Wolves' most obvious need is for veteran leadership. Rubio is the Wolves' longest-tenured active player, and he is not making a difference in any way.

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Listen to all of our podcasts at The Minnesota Sports Podcast Network (MNSPN.COM). The Russo-Souhan Show is up and Jon Krawczynski and I will talk Wolves tomorrow. You can subscribe at ITunes or go to the website.

Our next live shows are 4 and 4:30 on Friday at Hell's Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis. At 4 we;ll do our Facebook Live show with LaVelle Neal (you can watch live by friending Hell's Kitchen) and at 4:30 we'll do our VikingUpdate Show with VU publisher Tim Yotter. Stop by if you can.

@Souhanstrib

Souhan: All-Star Game rule had some value (and some Vikings thoughts)

Since news broke that MLB and the players have agreed to a new CBA, I've seen nothing but praise for the decision to rob the All-Star game of the power to decide home-field advantage for the World Series.

I get it. It was always an illogical arrangement.

But I'll defend the odd, now-defunct rule in a couple of ways.

Baseball still has the only All-Star game that matters, that looks something like the sport it is designed to celebrate. It is the only All-Star game among the major sports where the defense is fully engaged and competitive.

During the '90s and early 2000s, when I covered an All-Star game you could see and hear players plotting their early exit. They would leave after the fourth or fifth inning if they could to catch a flight. Their attitudes made the game feel meaningless.

Attached World Series home-field advantage changed that, gave the players reason to care about the outcome, instilled peer pressure from teams hopeful of making the World Series.

And because home-field advantage only truly gives an advantage to the "home'' team if the series reaches seven games, it rarely proved decisive.

Only once since 2002 has the home team won a Game 7 in the World Series - in 2011, when the Cardinals won in St. Louis.

So while the rule was widely reviled, it actually served its purpose and didn't upset competitive balance in the Series. So in a way, I'll miss it.

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Here are the three players I"ll be watching most closely tonight when the Vikings play the Cowboys:

-Linval Joseph: The Vikings' early-season defensive dominance started with excellent play against the run. That has slipped of late, which has led to the Vikings' defense failing to put opponents in obvious passing downs. That has reduced the effectiveness of the Vikings' pass rush and left an undersized defense playing too many snaps and getting beaten up and worn down.

The Vikings' best chance to stop the Cowboys powerful running game is for Joseph to turn in a dominant performance. It's not likely, given the size and quality of the Cowboys' line, but it's necessary.

-Harrison Smith: He has not been himself during the Vikings' struggles. The Vikings have listed him with ankle injuries but I've been led to believe he is trying to hide an upper-body injury that has made it difficult for him to hit with full force or wrap up when he tackles. He'll need to be at his run-stopping best to give the Vikings a chance to night, and I don't know if he's physically capable of playing at his best right now.

-Stefon Diggs: He should play tonight but his injuries may leave him at less than 100 percent, and the only way the Vikings' short-passing game is going to work is if he's capable of not only catching a lot of passes, but breaking a lot of tackles.

Today's stupid prediction: Cowboys 29, Vikings 20.

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We're running the VikingUpdate Show as a pregame show tonight at Hell's Kitchen from 4:15-5:15. Hell's is at 9th and Nicollet and there is cheap parking in the Metro Ramp above the restaurant on 9th. Please stop by or listen later at MNSPN.com.

@Souhanstrib