OAKLAND, Calif. -- Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have played together for 12 seasons, starting back when a 13-year-old Stephen Curry tagged along with his dad, Dell, to Toronto Raptors' practices and a 16-year-old Andrew Bogut attended the Australian Institute of Sport.
Bogut and Curry are practically strangers compared to their Spurs' counterparts. Entering the playoffs, the Warriors' center and point guard had played together for only 31 games, less than a full college season. Lately, they've gotten better acquainted, at great expense to the Denver Nuggets, and offered hints of imminent further bonding.
"It's going to continue to get better," Curry said of their rapport.
This should unnerve San Antonio, a town where the Warriors have not won a game since 1997, the year Duncan became the No. 1 draft pick. The losing streak has reached 29 games, haunting Bay Area basketball fans. But these are not the Warriors of futility past. In fact, they're not even the same team that lost there just six weeks ago, on March 20.
Back then, Bogut fit into the lineup like a kangaroo in a fish tank. In almost a year as a Warrior, he had been healthy enough to play only a handful of games, segueing from a back injury to a faulty ankle. In the meantime, Curry settled into a routine with David Lee as his big target, helping the castoff Knick become an All-Star and the league leader in double-doubles. A torn hip flexor in Game 1 forced Lee to sit down, ostensibly for the rest of the playoffs, and lit a mandatory flame under the Bogut-Curry relationship.
"I think early on in the season, he was thinking: 'What'd we trade for?'" Bogut said after he delivered a devastating Game 6 -- 14 points, 21 rebounds and 4 blocks in the Warriors' 92-88 win. "Rightfully so. I struggled. He's starting to understand that I can do different things than most 7-footers can. I can pass the ball, handle the ball well. They're starting to get confidence in me."
The Warriors are listed as a sixth seed, but they're really a wild card. Nobody can know what to expect from them against the exquisitely competent Spurs, except that Curry will successfully launch shots that no other guard with a conscience would even consider.
Lee's dramatic 87-second cameo in Game 6 raised the question of whether he can return during the conference semifinals. In theory, his presence would help the Warriors cope with Duncan, at least offensively. But judging by how he looked on Thursday, he shouldn't rush through the healing process anymore.
Coach Mark Jackson admitted he brought in Lee for inspiration more than anything else. And as a New Yorker with a fondness for symbolism, he called for a Lee jumper very much like one of the two that the injured Willis Reed famously made in Game 7 of the Knicks' 1970 championship series.
"When I shot that jumper, I went to backpedal and my leg was nonexistent," Lee said. "The difference was that Willis hit that jump shot -- mine rimmed in and out."
As Lee talked in the locker room, Curry walked by, reached out to shake his teammate's hand and came up with a Biblical reference to replace the New York analogy.
"Hey, Lazarus," he said.
But this night represented Bogut's revival, and vindication for the Warriors' executives who traded the excessively popular Monta Ellis for Milwaukee's hurt former No. 1 draft pick. The deal prompted fans to boo owner Joe Lacob a week later at a ceremony honoring Chris Mullin's induction into the Hall of Fame. But the Warriors needed a bigger guard to work alongside Curry, and they needed a post player like Bogut, if only he could recover his health.
"I've had an absolute nightmare of a six to nine months; there was no light at the end of the tunnel. It was pitch-black for months," Bogut said. "… Guys on the road, I'm at home. My day consisted of rehab in the morning, go home, ice. I don't go out. Haven't had a beer or a drink or an alcoholic beverage. I've given up a lot to just go home and get my ankle right."
He played with more aggression than he had yet marshaled as a Warrior, but the waltz between him and Curry became the most encouraging element of the evening. The two of them had moments of basketball telepathy, passing and screening as if they'd been together for at least two college seasons.
"When it all comes together, I can provide more offense than I have," said Bogut, whose 14 points represented his peak with Golden State. "Right now, my offense needs a lot of work to get back where it was."
It's impossible to calculate how Bogut's performance against the Nuggets, whose big men consistently underwhelmed, will translate against Duncan. He walked away from his news conference with a noticeable hitch in his step. We do know that any repeats of the Warriors' hideous Game 6 fourth quarter, which included 10 turnovers altogether and four turnovers in a 25-second span, will make them chum for the Spurs.
"I promise that won't happen again," Curry said.
Bogut projected rather than promised. "If I can set good screens and get (Curry) open, you never know what can happen with our team," he said.
The Warriors don't even know that. They're still figuring themselves out, going through the playoffs as a terrifying work in progress.