Even without Steve Nash, the Phoenix Suns were off and running. Leandro Barbosa scored 19 points in relief of the foul-plagued Nash and the Suns set a team record for best start...

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PHOENIX — Even without Steve Nash, the Phoenix Suns were off and running.


Leandro Barbosa scored 19 points in relief of the foul-plagued Nash and the Suns set a team record for best start to a season with a 121-100 victory over the Orlando Magic last night.


“We’ve been trying to encourage him and get his confidence going,” Nash said, “and tonight he was terrific.”


The Suns improved to an NBA-best 18-3, their best record 21 games into a season in the 37-year history of the franchise. Phoenix has won 14 of 15 for the first time in eight seasons.


“It means a lot,” Amare Stoudemire said. “It’s down to where I know we’re not pretenders, we’re contenders.”


But Quentin Richardson downplayed his team’s record with so many games left to play.


“It’s definitely a nice thing, but all of this means nothing if we start going downhill,” he said. “We can talk about all that stuff at the end of the year. We’ve got a lot more goals than just a great start.”


Richardson scored 26 points, including 6 of 12 three-pointers, to lead the NBA’s highest-scoring team to its fourth 120-plus-point game of the season.


Stoudemire scored 21 points, Shawn Marion had 19 points and 10 rebounds and Joe Johnson scored 18.


Nash, limited to 27 minutes, scored a season-low six points but had 10 assists. That’s what made Barbosa’s performance so impressive.


“That’s important for us because that gives Steve some rest,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said. “It doesn’t make us so dependent that we can’t do without him.”


Barbosa, two weeks past his 22nd birthday, credited Nash’s teaching.


“I talked to Steve Nash before the game, and he told me what to do on the court,” Barbosa said. “It worked.”


Grant Hill scored 23 points, Steve Francis 18 and Cuttino Mobley 15 for Orlando. Dwight Howard had 18 rebounds but was just 2-for-10 shooting.


The Magic played for the second night in a row, while Phoenix had been idle since Friday.


“We knew that was to our advantage,” D’Antoni said. “We were sitting here waiting for them. We wanted to keep the pace up. We thought their jump shots would fall a little short at the end of the game, which they did.”