SACRAMENTO -- The question was barely out of the mouth of the reporter before Warriors forward David Lee shut it down.
"No silver linings," he said, shaking his head while staring at the carpet. "No moral victories."
Golden State wanted no talk about the positives of a near-win at Oklahoma City. The team hoping to make a run for the Western Conference finals contends it is past that point.
Reality says otherwise. The Warriors (9-8) have not arrived as an elite team in the NBA, now 1-6 against the better teams out West. So the best-case scenario is they're building toward that through the course of this season. In that respect, Golden State has a few positives to take into Sunday's game at NorCal rival Sacramento. Chief among them is the return to gritty ball.
The Warriors went through a stretch Nov. 20-23 where they had a string of lackluster, uninspired performances that led to a three-game losing streak. They were bullied at home by Memphis, defenseless against the energy of the host Los Angeles Lakers, then outworked at home by Portland. Disappointed was coach Mark Jackson's word for those three games.
But Friday's buzzer-beating, overtime loss to the host Thunder was Golden State's third straight gutsy showing, all without starter Andre Iguodala (strained left hamstring) and backup point guard Toney Douglas (stress reaction, left tibia).
Tuesday, the Warriors -- without suspended starting center Andrew Bogut -- gutted out a road win against a young, athletic New Orleans squad. Wednesday, they refused to go away in Dallas, rallying from double-digit deficits on multiple occasions before losing.
Friday, they were a timely rebound from becoming the first team to win at Oklahoma City this season.
"Our effort was great," Klay Thompson said. "It doesn't matter. It's the same as losing by 50 in the loss column. We've got to find a way to pull out a win."
Another positive was the leap second-year forward Harrison Barnes made. When Lee was struggling, when Thompson couldn't buy a shot, when Stephen Curry went cold, Barnes performed. He was the go-to guy Warriors fans fell in love with in the playoffs last season.
Barnes not only dominated his mismatches on offense, scoring 26 points on 15 shots, but also made life difficult for Kevin Durant. Barnes is showing an improved ability to move laterally and use his strength, making him tough for Durant to shake. The Thunder star had 25 points but was 7 of 22 from the field.
"He was amazing," Curry said of Barnes. "He was aggressive on both ends. He stuck to the game plan and really showed what he's capable of. He's stepping up huge in Andre's absence. And even when Andre comes back, he's going to have to play like that for us to be as good as we're supposed to be."
Golden State, which likes to claim offense isn't a problem, has found it difficult to score for stretches even with all its weapons. But one of the Warriors' most effective schemes is to let a guard screen for Barnes against defenses that switch. As he did in the playoffs, Barnes feasts when he goes against guards.
But Friday was the latest situation where Barnes had success against players at his position. He was effective against Durant one-on-one. When Barnes is not exclusively settling for jumpers, he appears to be one of the Warriors' toughest covers.
"Offensively," Jackson said, "he made plays, he was aggressive and put us in position to win the ballgame."
Finally, the Warriors are suddenly getting great production from the center position. The tandem of Jermaine O'Neal and Andrew Bogut is clicking on offense and defense.
Bogut and O'Neal, the last two games, have combined for 33 points and 30 rebounds. Including O'Neal's throwback performance Tuesday in New Orleans, the Warriors are getting an average of 17 points on 65.7 percent shooting with 12.7 rebounds on the current trip.
"We just need to trust each other," Thompson said, " and play the way we know how to."
Warriors (9-8) at Sacramento (4-10), 3 p.m. CSNBA