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Minnesota at Denver

Without 'Melo, Nuggets top T-Wolves in preseason; 'Birdman' returns

CBSSports.com wire reports

DENVER -- The Denver Nuggets' preseason opener was a breeze.

Next, they'll face a gust.

The Nuggets dispatched the Minnesota Timberwolves 118-95 on Friday night, as reserve J.R. Smith finished with 21 points and Chris Andersen grabbed 11 boards.

Now, they're off to Indian Wells, Calif., to play the Phoenix Suns on Saturday in the NBA's first outdoor basketball game in more than 35 years.

The forecast is calling for windy conditions -- better keep those jump shots low.

"I can't wait," Smith said. "I have not played outside in a while."

The exhibition game will be played at the 16,000-seat Indian Wells Tennis Garden, a venue that will be converted into a hoops playground.

However, the outdoor court there won't resemble the type Nuggets coach George Karl played on growing up -- cracked cement courts with drooping baskets. The game won't be played with a lopsided rubber ball like Karl did and will be minus the metal clank after a swish through a chain-linked net.

Still, Karl is intrigued by the idea. The contest follows in the footsteps of the NHL's successful outdoor game on New Year's Day in Buffalo, N.Y.

"It's going to be interesting," Karl said. "For me, the playground is a very integral part of American basketball -- from Harlem to the streets of Pittsburgh. That was fun, going to certain courts and the wind blowing and you can't shoot jump shots, so you have to shoot off the backboard. There's all sorts of adjustments you make because of the wind."

Allen Iverson likes the concept, but won't be launching any floaters into the breeze. Iverson planned to stay behind to get treatment on his swollen left knee, an injury that flared up as he sat on the bench in the fourth quarter.

"I want to be a part of it, I want to play in it," said Iverson, who had nine assists in nearly 23 minutes Friday night. "But I can't start off the season struggling with an injury."

The last time the league staged an outdoor game was when the Suns beat the Milwaukee Bucks in a preseason contest on Sept. 24, 1972, at a baseball stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

"It will be fun," Karl said.

Denver (1-0) led by as many as 25 points in the third quarter, before the Timberwolves went on a late spurt, climbing within 13 points midway through the fourth. Andersen's 3-pointer put an end to the rally, and the Timberwolves' two-game preseason winning streak.

Andersen, a fan favorite nicknamed "Birdman," was making his return to the Nuggets. He was reinstated by the NBA in early March after being kicked out on Jan. 27, 2006, for violating the league's drug policy. Andersen played five games for the New Orleans Hornets last season.

"He's been anxious, having been out of the game for two years," Karl said. "I think he wants to recreate his career. He has impressed me with not making as many mistakes as I thought he would make."

Al Jefferson grabbed 11 rebounds and scored 10 points for Minnesota (2-1), while Corey Brewer had 13 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter.

Brewer said he spent the majority of the summer working on getting his shooting touch back. This was a step in the right direction.

"I should get a lot of open shots this year and I have got to knock them down," he said.

Rookie Kevin Love turned in a nine-point, 11-rebound game, while reserve Blake Ahearn finished with 17 points and Randy Foye chipped in 16.

"They were a little fatigued," Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said of his team. "We played a little bit more their style than our style. We got caught up in their game."

The Nuggets were without Carmelo Anthony, who bruised his left ring finger in practice Thursday when he had the ball slapped out of his hand. The hand was wrapped in a bandage at a shootaround Friday, but the team said X-rays were negative.

"It's getting better," Anthony said after the game.

For as much as he wants to play in the outdoor contest, he doesn't want to risk further injury.

"I'll be a part of it though. I'll be there," Anthony said.

He paused, glancing at his hand.

"But I might change my mind," Anthony said, grinning.

Copyright 2015 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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Kenyon Martin scores 13 points to help the Nuggets win their preseason opener.  (AP)
Kenyon Martin scores 13 points to help the Nuggets win their preseason opener. (AP)
Minnesota (1-1) 2118223495
Denver (1-0) «26331940118
MIN: Pts
MIN: Reb
MIN: Ast
DEN: Pts
DEN: Reb
DEN: Ast

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