INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- The Suns held their third annual outdoor exhibition game at Indian Wells Tennis Garden on Saturday, and got their first win of the preseason over the shorthanded Mavericks by a final score of 98-90.
Dallas was without Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, who were in attendance but were held out of this one by the team. And Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle was also absent, choosing not to make the trip after collapsing at the team's practice facility on Friday.
Carlisle seems to be fine since the incident, as was confirmed by Mavs' assistant coach Dwane Casey, who took over the head coaching duties against the Suns.
"I talked to him [Friday] night," Casey said. "He's feeling fine, doing well, it sounds like he's having fun being with [his family] at home, so he's doing good. He was upbeat, and he had just left the office, so he's fine."
Onto the game then, or at least to the conditions for the game, since they always seem to be the main story for what has become the only outdoor game played between two NBA teams each season.
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The first year of the event, temperatures dipped into the 60s during the game, and wind gusts were as high as 15 mph, making for some uncomfortable and ugly basketball. On Saturday, however, the weather cooperated nicely, and temperatures remained in the 80s for the majority of the contest.
"It was perfect, it was pretty much like playing inside of an arena, really," Suns head coach Alvin Gentry said. "Once you start playing and it gets a little dark, you can't really tell that you're outside anyway. I think it's a great venue and a great atmosphere, and we really love coming out here and playing."
Casey was intrigued by the open-air arena, although more from the standpoint of using it as a point of emphasis to get his team to focus in the face of another distraction.
"It's a good experience for our guys," Casey said. "It's not the typical NBA arena, but ... the whole season's filled with distractions. There's travel, fatigue, whatever it is, there's something that's always going to be a distraction. This is another thing that can help us focus, and give us a little practice on distraction."
The Suns didn't seem too distracted on this night; maybe it was the familiarity with the venue for a lot of the guys, or maybe it was an increased focus of their own. But after getting crushed in the first two games of the preseason -- first by 14 in Sacramento, then by a ridiculous 51 points against the Raptors -- Phoenix defended well, particularly with its second unit, and reduced its turnovers from the 26.5 the team averaged over its first two games to just 12 against Dallas.
The outdoor event seems to be a success locally, and except for some empty seats on the suite level and on the bleachers at the very top of the stadium, the building -- which can seat up to 16,100 fans -- seemed largely filled, and the game had an official attendance of 15,615.
Plans are in the works for the Suns to return to Indian Wells for a fourth consecutive year next season.