There's no more fitting image for the NBA in 2015 than a member of the Golden State Warriors – usually Stephen Curry – nailing a 3-pointer to either fire up Oracle Arena or turn a road venue silent.
To close out the best year in franchise history 30 games over .500, they'll have to beat a pair of teams equally happy to fire away from long distance.
Two tough challenges await the Warriors before the calendar flips to 2016 as they open a two-game Texas trip Wednesday night against a Dallas Mavericks team that's been lighting it up behind the arc.
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That's exactly what Golden State (29-1) did in its last home game of a year that saw it finish a 67-win regular season and earn the franchise's first championship in 40 years while producing its first MVP since Wilt Chamberlain. Curry hit five 3-pointers in the final 3:15 of the first half – a quarter of the Warriors' 20 3s – on his way to a triple-double in Monday's 122-103 victory over Sacramento.
But the Kings hit 13 3s in 31 attempts, nine during a first half in which they put up 61 points and drew the ire of both recovering coach Steve Kerr at intermission and their current bench boss after it was over.
“Even though we can beat teams in a pick-up style game where the ball is getting slung around and guys are just catching and shooting, we need to work on being champions,” Luke Walton said. “That's executing on offense, that's protecting the ball and that's competing on the defensive end.”
The Warriors could have their hands full defending the arc again against Dallas (18-13) and Houston, where they visit Thursday. Both teams have attempted more 3s per game in December than the Warriors' 30.1, and the Mavericks' 12.1 average makes since Dec. 6 lead the league while their 39.3 percentage trails only Washington and New Orleans.
Dallas hasn't been able to approach the Warriors' efficiency beyond the arc in recent meetings. Golden State has won the last seven, outscoring the Mavericks 279-153 from deep.
As they cap one of the best calendar years in NBA history, there are a few more milestones on the table for the Warriors in Texas. With a win Tuesday, they'll match the 2012 Spurs for the most wins in one year (72) since the 1996 Bulls won an NBA-record 74. And with victories in both Dallas and Houston, they'll be the first team to be 30 games over .500 on Jan. 1 since the 1971-72 Lakers were 36-3.
“It doesn't sound right,” Curry said of the Warriors' many milestones. “We've been playing this game for many, many years and we're just trying not to focus on the numbers but just how we're playing.”
The Mavericks had to focus on the one team that beat Golden State before getting a crack at the champs themselves, and they made it three straight wins by beating Milwaukee 103-93 on Monday while forcing 18 turnovers and committing just four.
“We weren't even thinking about Golden State,” Wesley Matthews said after scoring a game-high 22. “You know, it was Chicago, and then it was Milwaukee. We can't overlook any team. We're not in a position to, and our margin for error is too small to do anything like that.”
Both teams are banged up. Deron Williams has missed the last three games with a hamstring injury and is uncertain for Wednesday, though J.J. Barea has averaged 22 points and hit 13 3s in his absence.
Curry is dealing with a calf injury he calls “part of the regular-season grind,” while Festus Ezeli came out of the Kings game with a foot injury but is expected to face the Mavs.
Leandro Barbosa (shoulder) and Harrison Barnes (ankle) won't play on this trip, though Barnes is nearing a return.