OAKLAND -- Golden State didn't need much from center Andrew Bogut by way of offense Wednesday. Point guard Stephen Curry and forward David Lee made sure of it, combining for 51 points as the Warriors outgunned the Detroit Pistons 105-97.
But in the long run, especially against formidable half-court defenses, the Warriors are going to need Bogut's offensive development to win big games.
"There is nothing like having guys who have been around that understand what it takes to win and read different actions," said coach Mark Jackson, who brought Bogut in earlier than normal in the fourth quarter. "His experience makes a difference."
The Warriors won their second straight to improve to 4-2 on the seven-game homestand, which concludes Friday against Chicago.
With Houston winning, the Warriors maintained a 11/2-game lead on the Rockets for the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference. But the Los Angeles Lakers lost, putting a three-game cushion between the Warriors and the No. 8 seed. Utah also lost and is 31/2 behind the Warriors.
If the Warriors are to finish out the season strong, and perhaps make noise in the postseason, Golden State will need more than just Bogut's veteran savvy. They will need him to be a cog in the offense, to create high-percentage offense.
He appears to be past the hurdle of playing back-to-back sets and limited minutes (though it looked as if his back -- which caused him to miss six games earlier this month -- was bothering him at times). But there are still noted strides he will need to make, the biggest being on offense.
He contributed a bit in the fourth quarter Wednesday. He slipped a shovel pass to Lee for a dunk at the 9:09 mark, putting the Warriors up 84-77. With just shy of three minutes left, Detroit went with the Hack-a-Bogut strategy. Bogut split the free throws. At one point, he drove off the dribble from the top, running a little point-center action.
The Warriors scored 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting in the fourth quarter, enough to keep the Pistons at bay. Bogut had two points and two assists and finished with seven points, 10 rebounds and four assists.
"We're still getting comfortable with it," Curry said of the late-game offense after totaling 31 points and eight assists. "Obviously it's real late in the season. But with Bogut now in the mix in the fourth quarter, we're trying to figure out what plays to run and how to use his passing ability to open things up. ...
"We're going to continue to get better. Obviously, we need to execute at a high level down the stretch of the season to capitalize on these games. But it's still a brand new team that's working through the chemistry of how we're going to finish games."
Part of what Bogut, the veteran 7-foot center, was supposed to bring was a much-needed inside presence. While he isn't a dominant scorer -- his career averages are 12.4 points on 52.1 percent shooting -- he is known around the league as a deft passer.
The jumper-heavy Warriors are hoping to take advantage of that, especially down the stretch of close games. Bogut and Lee, two of the better passing big men in the league, theoretically expand the Warriors' options and give Golden State an improved half-court attack.
But Bogut isn't there yet. Still getting into game shape, still trying to find his game.
Wednesday was the first time in five games that Golden State scored 25 or more fourth-quarter points. The Warriors have done so only four times since the All-Star break.
In critical games when they've needed a bucket, Golden State has been forced to rely on outside shots. And with defenses paying special attention to Curry, getting a good shot has become increasingly difficult.
Jackson said when Bogut gets back to being an upper-echelon center, if he gets there, it will help the Warriors' late-game offense. Golden State is used to getting limited offensive production from its centers, whether Bogut or rookie Festus Ezeli or veteran Andris Biedrins. But down the stretch, and especially in the postseason, the Warriors won't be able to afford playing four-on-five on the offensive end.
"He's been rebounding, protecting the paint and setting screens," Jackson said before the game. "I think the next step is going to be getting back to who he is on the block. ... He's beginning to feel more and more comfortable at getting some of that explosiveness back."
According to team sources, the Warriors don't want him taking minutes away from rookie forward Draymond Green.
It is obvious Golden State could use a defensive stopper. And they have the roster space to add McGuire, who is a free agent looking for a team. And McGuire would be eligible for the postseason should the Warriors sign him by season's end.
But the Warriors let McGuire walk during the offseason largely because they believed Green could bring what McGuire did, plus more rebounding. Jackson, who one source said has veto power, doesn't want to inhibit Green's development.
So instead of getting a perimeter wing defender, the Warriors decided to fill their hole at third-string power forward, hence the signing of Malcolm Thomas from the D-League. Golden State doesn't have a legitimate power forward behind Lee and Carl Landry since Jeremy Tyler was traded to Atlanta.
Chicago (35-29) at Warriors (37-29), 7:30 p.m. CSNBA