DENVER • Stephen Curry is the reigning National Basketball Association (NBA) Most Valuable Player (MVP). But for one night, forward Draymond Green showed he might be more valuable to the Golden State Warriors.
With Green rested, Denver forward Danilo Gallinari scored a team-high 28 points and had a key steal in the final 10 seconds on Wednesday, and the Nuggets handed Golden State a rare defeat, 112-110.
Curry scored 38 points for the Warriors (36-3) but their march to a historic season took a hit against a scrappy Nuggets team.
The win ranks with the Nuggets' Feb 4, 1996 victory that ended Chicago's 18-game winning streak. The Bulls finished 72-10 that season - the best win-loss mark in NBA history, and the record the Warriors are chasing.
Green, Golden State's do-everything forward, sat out a game for the first time this season as a scheduled day of rest.
And his team missed his averages of 15.9 points, 9.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game - as well as his energy and toughness.
"He has a very impactful skill set," Curry said. "Offensively, it wasn't an issue. Defensively, his versatility was something we missed."
Green's defence was especially missed against Gallinari, whose 19 free-throw attempts were one fewer than the entire Warriors team. He scored 17 points from the line but his miss with 3.1 seconds left gave the Warriors one last chance.
However, guard Klay Thompson missed a fall-away jumper at the buzzer, and the Nuggets escaped.
"It means a lot against the defending champs," said Gallinari. "It's a very good win but in two days, we play another team. We can't really think about this win too much."
They were enjoying it in the moment after surviving Curry's onslaught in the fourth. The guard was six-for-17 from the field through the first three quarters but went seven-for-eight for 20 points in the fourth.
"That fourth quarter, a barrage of three, and then Steph stepped over half-court and made one," Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried said. "I was like, 'Not this again', but we held them off."
They had Gallinari to thank for that. After the Italian had his drive blocked with 16.8 seconds left, he stole the ball from Curry - the last of his eight turnovers - and Denver guard Gary Harris hit two free throws with 5.4 seconds left.
"It was a great opportunity to tie the game or take the lead," Curry said. "Got stuck between looking for the open man and handling the ball, one little mishandle and Gallinari got it."