The alley-oop in the second quarter of Golden State's 125-118 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Monday night will either be a turning point or just another brief burst of brilliance in an injury-saddled season for the Australian centre. At the very least, it gave the home fans reason to believe Bogut could be a factor in the playoff push.
"There are going to be plays like that where, individually for him, his mind is going to be, 'I'm close to being back,'" Warriors coach Mark Jackson said. "For our guys, it was a 'wow' moment. Because we haven't seen it. Because we're expecting it. We know who he is. We know what he's capable of doing. For him to make a play like that, it was refreshing."
David Lee had 29 points and 11 rebounds to back Bogut's eye-opening return and snap Golden State's four-game losing streak. Curry added 26 points and tied a season high with 12 assists, and Klay Thompson scored 10 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter to help the Warriors pull away with a 9-0 run.
After missing the last six games because of a bad back, Bogut played a season-high 30 minutes. He finished with four points, eight rebounds, one block and one assist.
"I felt all right," said Bogut, who was 2 for 4 shooting. "It's just good to get back out there after a frustrating year for me."
Andrea Bargnani scored 26 points and tied a career high with five 3-pointers, and Amir Johnson added 23 points and 15 rebounds in Toronto's fifth straight loss. Kyle Lowry finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, and Rudy Gay scored 26 points after missing the Raptors' loss at Milwaukee on Saturday night with back spasms.
Golden State's streaky shooting still proved to be too much. The Warriors outshot the Raptors 57 to 44 per cent and made 23 of 28 free throws, closing out the game in the final minute from the line.
"The offence wasn't the problem," Bargnani said. "We had what we wanted. On defence we have to do a better job, especially against these kinds of teams. We tried to do what we can, but it wasn't good enough."
After a frustrating 1-4 road trip, Golden State began a stretch of seven straight and 16 of its last 22 at home. The Warriors improved to 19-7 this season at Oracle Arena, where the ever-loyal fan base has sold out 17 straight games and is begging for a playoff berth.
While the defensive deficiencies remain, Golden State's offensive outpouring overwhelmed the Raptors in the end.
Thompson hit two 3-pointers and a mid-range jumper to highlight a 10-2 run to start the fourth quarter, giving the Warriors a 93-92 lead. Both teams hit the century mark with more than six minutes to play, and that's when Golden State really hit its stride.
Harrison Barnes made a 3-pointer, Thompson added a pair of free throws and Curry swished a pull-up jumper during a 9-0 spurt to put the Warriors ahead 109-100 with 3:04 remaining. Toronto got within four points three different times before Golden State sealed the game with free throws.
"I'm not very happy with this win, other than the fact that we won," Lee said.
The biggest positive for the Warriors was the return of Bogut, who didn't travel with the team during its East Coast road trip. He also missed 42 games earlier this season recovering from left ankle surgery and often looked hampered when he did play.
The latest return of Golden State's franchise centre offered more promise than patience.
In the second quarter alone, Bogut had three of his best plays all season: He slipped through a pick-and-roll, caught a pass from Curry and tucked the ball between two defenders to Lee for a baseline dunk. He showed some lift when he took a pass from Curry for a two-handed slam, and he finished that alley-oop from Curry — "a thunderous dunk," as Lee called it — that got everybody's attention and put the Warriors ahead 62-50 just before the half.
"I think guys can kind of be more confident with me back there," Bogut said.
Bogut still often laid on the baseline instead of sitting on the bench when he was taken out. He also periodically performed stretches to stay loose.
Toronto's ailing big man had no problems getting into a groove.
After missing Toronto's morning practice with a stomach illness, Bargnani scored 12 points in the first quarter to help the Raptors go ahead by five. He also helped Toronto score 12 straight between the second and third quarters to tie the game, then took a 90-83 lead heading in the fourth, when the Warriors ran away.
"At the beginning of the fourth is when the game changed," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "We went back to how we played in the first half: soft defensively."
NOTES: The Raptors are 0-9 when Bargnani scores 20 or more. ... Former Warriors G Sarunas Marciulionis, drafted in the sixth round by Golden State in 1987, was in attendance as part of European Community Night.