PHOENIX, March 28 (Ticker) -- Even without Amare Stoudemire, the Phoenix Suns still were able to deliver another message to the Denver Nuggets.

Playing without their leading scorer, the Suns relied on their other offensive weapons in an entertaining 123-114 victory over the Nuggets, who had a six-game winning streak snapped.

NBA TV highlights from
In what may have been a preview of a possible first-round playoff matchup, the Suns improved to 3-0 against the Nuggets, who entered the contest as the NBA's hottest team. Denver has won 14 of its last 16 games, but both losses have come against Phoenix.

"Hopefully this kills a bit of their confidence," said Suns center Steven Hunter, who made 6-of-7 shots and scored 14 points in Stoudemire's place. "I was talking to (Andre) Miller after the game and he said he hopes they play us in the first round and my question was, 'Why? We beat you three times and tonight we beat you without one of the best players in the league.' I didn't get an answer."

Stoudemire, the Suns' All-Star center, sat out with a left ankle injury, but backcourt tandem of Steve Nash and Joe Johnson more than picked up the slack, especially in the fourth quarter.

After Earl Boykins' layup with 5:45 remaining gave the Nuggets their biggest lead at 107-102, Johnson and Nash combined for the first 13 points in an 18-3 run as the Suns took over down the stretch, looking very much like a team fighting for the NBA's best record.

Johnson drilled a jumper and 3-pointer 40 seconds apart, tying the game at 107-107 with 4:50 left. After Carmelo Anthony's layup put Denver in front, Nash hit a jumper and Johnson converted a three-point play with 3:43 to go, giving Phoenix the lead for good.

"I feel real confident with the ball in my hand and wanted to be aggressive," said Johnson, who made 9-of-16 shots. "I was really taking it upon myself. They backed down and gave me my shot and taking it when I was there."

"We had the game, then Joe Johnson was like the quiet assassin out there," Anthony said. "He had like nine straight points and put his team on his back tonight."

Shawn Marion had 30 points and 14 rebounds and Nash and Johnson each scored 23 points for the Suns (53-17), who moved one game ahead of San Antonio for the Western Conference's best record and one-half game in front of Miami for the league's top mark.

"It was a little different out there without Amare," said Marion, who went 11-of-16 from the floor. "Everybody had to step up a notch and we did that. Most of the stuff that he (Amare) gets I was getting tonight, like transition. Tonight I got the chance to run the floor and took advantage of it."

Anthony scored 22 points to pace seven players in double figures for Denver, which fell to 22-6 under coach George Karl, who was ejected with 42 seconds remaining after picking up a pair of technical fouls.

"We didn't lose the game because of refereeing, we got beat by a team that is playing really well," Karl said. "The consistency is frustrating. We got hit on our arms a lot. I snapped at the end because of the touch foul on Nash ended the game rather then letting the game end itself."

"We squandered some points in the first half, we had some mental breakdowns," Suns coach Mike D'Antoni said. "In the fourth quarter we just beat them up. This is what it's going to take; our attitude and just be tougher."

Denver (38-31), which would meet Phoenix in the first round of the playoffs if the season ended Monday, is two games ahead of Minnesota for the Western Conference's final postseason berth.

"Whoever we play, we play," D'Antoni said. "I could make a case of every team we want (to play) and every team we don't want. It's just about the Suns. If we play well, that is all we have to worry about."

Wesley Person scored 14 points to lead a strong bench effort for the Nuggets, who played without starting forward Kenyon Martin (chest). Denver's bench outscored Phoenix's reserves, 49-20.

Quentin Richardson added 14 points for Phoenix, which shot 55 percent (44-of-80) and made 10-of-22 3-pointers. Denver shot 48 percent (44-of-92), including 9-of-19 from the arc.