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OAKLAND — Draymond Green’s foot picked a heck of a week to turn up bruised and swollen.

Green is on a mission to win the NBA Defensive Player of the Year trophy, and his presence regularly elevates the Warriors on that side of the court. But they need him some games more than others, and Thursday was one of those games. The opponent was the ascendant Milwaukee Bucks, who brought an 8-2 record into Oracle Arena. More specifically, the opponent was Giannis Antetokounmpo, the alien life form who plays whatever-position-you-want-to-call-it for the Bucks.

With Antetokounmpo leading the way, the Bucks won 134-111. It was the most points the Warriors had given up at home since March of 2009, when Stephen Curry was still playing at Davidson College and Steve Kerr was the Phoenix Suns’ general manager.

“We have to be focused in order not to foul,” Kerr, now of course the Warriors coach, said after the loss. “The whole thing we teach all the time is that you have to show your hands. If you use your hands in the NBA these days, you’re done. It’s an automatic foul. We had multiple reaches right away.”

You know about Antetokounmpo. They call him the Greek Freak. He’s only 23 years old, and he has crept into the conversation for league MVP. He was only 18 when Milwaukee drafted him in 2013, was considered a huge project. Now he is a unique NBA entity, a 6-foot-11 post player who can handle the ball and runs the floor like a velociraptor, and whose arms seem to elongate before your eyes as he elevates for dunks.

His story is pretty incredible. Raised in a poor neighborhood in Athens, Greece, the son of Nigerian immigrants. Drafted as a 6-9 small forward who weighed less than 200 pounds. Averaged 6.8 points a game as a rookie. Now he’s an almost-7-footer with a 7-3 wing span who averages 25.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists for one of the NBA’s best young teams.

NBA.com posted a video that showed Antetokounmpo covering what it estimated to be 57.6 feet with two dribbles and two long steps to the basket. Seriously. He is molten.

The Warriors no doubt respect Antetokounmpo, but they weren’t particularly interested in the Freak Phenomenon on Thursday. They were concerned with getting bodies on him and preventing easy baskets. No single Warrior would be given responsibility for stopping him; that’s too demanding of one man. Getting a hand in Antetokounmpo’s face mostly fell to a couple of Golden State’s young bigs, Jordan Bell and Kevon Looney.

Bell made his first start of the season in place of Green. “One thing I didn’t want to do is get (Kevin Durant) in foul trouble,” Kerr said. “I thought it made sense to give JB a chance at Giannis.”

It went about as poorly as you might have imagined. Bell picked up his second foul, both while guarding Antetokounmpo, 4 minutes and 46 seconds into the game and retired to the bench for the rest of the half.

“I thought I started the whole fouling thing just by getting two quick ones, unnecessary fouls,” Bell said. “He’s definitely tough to guard. I thought we did a good job of slowing him down, though. Well, Loon did a good job of slowing him down.”

I asked Bell if it frustrated him that he didn’t get more of an opportunity to show what he could do against Antetokounmpo.

“Definitely, but I mean, I did this to myself,” he said. “I have no one to blame but myself. I’m the one who reached.”

Looney replaced Bell, and it took him quite a bit longer to get his two first-half fouls. In fact, Looney held his own against Antetokounmpo for a while. When the first quarter ended, the Freak had six points, a rebound and an assist in eight minutes. The Warriors trailed 32-29. Things were sort of under control. Then came the second quarter.

As Stephen Curry stumbled through his worst game of the short season (he would leave with an injury in the third period and finish with 10 points and zero 3-pointers) and Durant failed to find any real rhythm, their competition in the MVP race erupted. Antetokounmpo backed Looney onto the floor and jammed to break a 34-34 tie. He bounced a beautiful little pass to Pat Connaughton under the basket. He split two Warriors defenders and drew a late whistle on Andre Iguodala. As the half wound down, Antetokounmpo backed down Looney one more time for a lay-in, then blocked an attempt by Durant at the other end.

Even when he failed to deliver the highlight, he won. Just inside the 5-minute mark of the quarter, Antetokounmpo stole the ball and raced down the court with Klay Thompson in pursuit. Instead of trying to posterize Thompson, the Freak quietly went for a layup, missed it, rebounded and scored.

His line in the second quarter alone: 13 points, six rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal.

The Warriors were down 64-51 at the half, and never mounted a real threat thereafter. Antetokounmpo had proved to be the best player on the court. And that didn’t change when he slowed his pace in the third quarter, or when he got into foul trouble of his own, or when he sat out for the final quarter of the one-sided game.

It demonstrated a couple of things. One, Antetokounmpo is a dynamic player who makes the Bucks a legitimate threat in the playoffs. And two, the Warriors are a different team when Draymond Green isn’t playing. He suffers his own disadvantages against Antetokounmpo, length primary among them, but Golden State needed his fight Thursday night.

“Definitely makes a difference,” Antetokounmpo said. “Draymond’s an All-Star, he’s the heart of the team, great player, facilitates really well on the team. Not having him tonight, definitely there were times they didn’t have energy as a team, and I feel like if Draymond was in the game he probably would give them some extra energy.”

Kerr wouldn’t concede the point.

“I don’t think tonight had to do with Draymond, honestly,” he said. “It had to do with our overall focus. Obviously, Draymond gives us everything that he does, every night, all that fire and everything else. But when you come out with sort of a mindless intent, and you’re fouling — I think we had four fouls in the first two minutes — and you’re not executing, you’re taking quick shots against a really good team and a team that’s hungry and on the rise, you’re not gonna fare very well.”

Kerr added: “Sometimes you gotta get hit in the mouth in this league to remind you how hard it is to win a game.”

The Warriors got hit in the mouth Thursday. They’ll get up. But it served as reminder that there are talented teams out there like the Bucks, and gifted players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, and beating them will be tough anytime the Warriors are short-handed.

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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