Stephen Curry, left, fights for control of a loose ball with Denver forward Will Barton during the Warriors’ 112-110 loss to the Nuggets on Wednesday night.(David Zalubowski/AP)

Warriors lose, injured Kobe awaits

DENVER — Know the pundits who’ve said Draymond Green is a legitimate challenger to Stephen Curry as MVP?

They now have a bit of ammunition.

With Green sitting out the game as scheduled rest and Curry committing a key turnover in the final seconds, the Warriors lost their third game of a storybook season Wednesday night, 112-110 to the Denver Nuggets.

Curry was just about unstoppable in the fourth quarter, except near the end. He scored 20 of his 38 points in the final period but lost the ball under defensive pressure from Danilo Gallinari in the pivotal moment.

“It was a great opportunity to try to tie the game or take the lead,” Curry said about the last of his eight turnovers. “Got stuck between looking for the open man and handling the ball, and one little mishandle and Gallinari got it.”

The defending NBA champion Warriors (36-3) had won seven straight since their previous defeat at Dallas on Dec. 30. Harrison Barnes added 18 points and Klay Thompson had 17 for the Warriors.

They return home tonight for a simpler task against the Los Angeles Lakers, who have their own issues as Kobe Bryant struggles with injuries in his final months before retirement. The best way to deal with Bryant’s sore right Achilles’ tendon injury has become an interesting case study for the Lakers.

He wants to play in the final road games of his 20-year career, telling Coach Byron Scott that he was “feeling better” before practice Wednesday. Bryant hopes to play against the Warriors in his last visit to Oracle Arena.

Scott listed Bryant as questionable, probable and a game-time decision for the game.
“Yeah, all those things,” Scott said, jokingly.

On the other hand, Lakers athletic trainer Gary Vitti recommended Bryant shut it down for a week or two to rest the injury. Scott smiled while telling the story, saying Bryant would oppose Vitti’s idea.

Bryant didn’t practice Wednesday, but he got treatment and flew with the team to Oakland.

“I know he wants to play,” Scott said. “I’ll wait until tomorrow to see how he feels. Then if he says, ‘Coach, I want to play,’ then we have to have another discussion on how long he can play, how many minutes. I’m just going to wait until tomorrow and see how he feels and go from there.”

Bryant played 15 minutes Tuesday night in the Lakers’ 95-91 victory over New Orleans at Staples Center, but left in the second quarter because of the sore Achilles’ tendon and did not return.

Bryant first felt the Achilles’ tendon tighten up last Friday night in the fourth quarter against Oklahoma City. He sat out Sunday night’s home game against Utah.

“[Vitti] would love to shut him down,” Scott said. “But that ain’t probably going to happen. He [Bryant] doesn’t want to shut it down.”

Bryant, who was getting a haircut in the media room Wednesday, was asked about Vitti’s recommendation.

He just laughed before walking away.

“He feels a certain responsibility to play in these arenas, which is admirable of him,” Scott said. “But my responsibility is to make sure he can play this season. … At the end of the day, myself, him, Gary Vitti and probably [General Manager] Mitch Kupchak, we’ll sit down and try to figure out what’s the best way for him to finish out this season.”

Whether Bryant plays or not, the Warriors are prepared to honor him. He will hold a press conference before the game. Warriors consultant Jerry West, who famously traded for Bryant as Lakers’ GM in one of the all-time NBA coups, also will appear before the media.

“It’ll definitely be special,” said interim coach Luke Walton, who played with Bryant on two championship teams in L.A. “As long as he’s been playing in the league, this has always been one of the arenas where he has had some great games and battles. With how loud it is at Oracle, I think it’ll be a special night.”

Said Curry: “The game is in a much better place because Kobe played in this league for 20 years. We appreciate all that he’s done, and we want to keep doing the game justice as we do what we do in our careers.”

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