PHOENIX, Oct. 30 (Ticker) -- Nick Van Exel scored 27 points and Scott Williams added 12 and 15 rebounds as the Denver Nuggets held on for a 99-96 victory over the Phoenix Suns.


Nick Van Exel burned Stephon Marbury in his debut with the Suns .
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Denver is without leading scorer Antonio McDyess, who is sidelined until February following knee surgery. Van Exel is expected to pick up the scoring load and Williams was acquired for rebounding.

Van Exel was 9-of-22 from the floor and dished out nine assists, helping Denver open a 57-36 halftime lead.

Acquired last week from Milwaukee in a three-team trade, Williams went 6-of-14 from the floor as the Nuggets shot just 39 percent (35-of-89).

Denver dominated Phoenix defensively in the first half, limiting the Suns to 34 percent (14-of-41) shooting as newcomer Stephon Marbury and Penny Hardaway were 1-of-11 from the floor.

"That was as good a defense as I have seen in Denver, period," Nuggets coach Dan Issel said. "We got out and stuffed the pick and rolls and we made them shoot from the outside, and they weren't hitting very well."

"We're a lot better defensively," Van Exel added. "Intensity was there and we had a lot of help and a lot of guys talking. We watched the tape of New York and how they did a good job of staying with (Marbury) and getting the ball out of his hands. We tried that and it worked pretty good tonight."

The Suns had their only lead at 2-0 and the Nuggets closed the first half with a 10-0 run to take a commanding 21-point lead.

Phoenix outscored Denver, 33-22, in the fourth quarter to get the deficit under double digits. The Suns shot 78 percent (14-of-18) over the final 12 minutes and closed with a 15-5 run.

"We played a lot more aggressive in the second half on both ends of the floor and we didn't do that in the first half," Phoenix guard Tony Delk said. "We came back hard, but we didn't win the game. We can learn from this. You can't start a game like we did.

Marbury struggled in his Suns' debut, collecting 14 points and 10 assists while making just 4-of-11 shots. He was considered questionable before the game due to tightness in his left hamstring.

Hardaway contributed just one point and missed all six shots in 19 minutes. He played just two minutes in the second half.

"I was a mile high when the game started," Hardaway said. "I don't think I was running any slower than anyone else out there. I was physically and mentally perfect. I thought I was doing a pretty good job out there.

"I was 0-for-6. I wasn't shooting that well, but that's why you have two halves in a basketball game. I wanted to keep playing through it, but I didn't have the opportunity to do so."

Injuries limited Hardaway to four games last season and just 64 over two campaigns since he was acquired from the Orlando Magic.

Delk led Phoenix with 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting in 33 minutes off the bench. He also was the Suns' leading scorer in the preseason and was one of seven players to score 50 points in a game in 2000-01.

The victory ended Denver's eight-game losing streak at America West Arena that dated to December 23, 1996.