Despite frigid temperatures and even frostier shooting percentages, the Denver Nuggets beat the Phoenix Suns 77-72, in the league's first outdoor exhibition game in over three decades.
Shooting guard J.R. Smith led the Nuggets in scoring with 14 for the second consecutive game as the team improved to 2-0 in exhibition matchups.
Steve Nash led the Suns with 16 points as Phoenix fell to 1-2 in preseason competition.
With the And 1 apparent style setting, the freshet squads adapted to their surroundings nicely and provided a entertaining game by preseason standards, despite Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, and Amare Stoudemire all adjacent.
As expected, Nene seemed stale and sluggish in the opening minutes, but mustered enough courage to post seven points and three rebounds in the first.
Lumberjack Robin Lopez was a fixture in the paint, blocking two shots within 50 seconds after being inserted into the game early in the opening quarter and he proceeded to disallow any attempts along the baseline.
He produced two points, a rebound, and two blocks in six minutes—a lion-hearted effort.
Lopez concluded the first half with 10 points, five rebounds, and four blocks (PHX 6 total) on 4-7 FG shooting. The 15th overall selection in the June draft finished the evening with 10 points, five rebounds, and six blocks.
The Nuggets executed a 12-1 run in a three minute span, regaining them the lead. Linas Kleiza's six points while camp invitee Ruben Patterson and Chris Andersen accounted for the other half. Kleiza, did however, miss four free throws, pertaining to a point of emphasis when their practice resumes.
Phoenix responded by going on a 13-0 spree, grasping the lead into halftime, 41-37.
As the third quarter began, the Nuggets desire to win emerged and swallowed the loping Suns on both ends of the floor.
Disorientated Shaquille O'Neal swapped spots with Robin Lopez in the starting lineup, as the big cactus sat down with two points and five fouls with 6:43 left in the third. Shaq later fouled out with 9:46 remaining, having collected two points and seven rebounds.
Surprisingly, the Nuggets defense stifled (contrary to lackluster allegations) the Suns offense, holding them to 11 points in the third, while producing 23 of their own.
At the end of the third quarter, the Nuggets led 60-52.
George Karl's team continued to maintain their lead throughout the final portion of the game, but almost faltered down the stretch as their defense turned ghostly and their offense turned sour.
Raja Bell's three-pointer in the fourth snipped the deficit to a basket—65-63 with 6:36 remaining.
Denver however managed to survive the late run and hung on 77-72.