In defeating the streaking Dallas Mavericks in Dallas, the Los Angeles Lakers have finally provided something we haven't seen this season; a signature win. The type of win you can hang your hat on, the type of win that provides hope for something greater in the grand scheme of playoff basketball, the type of win that shows who you are as a team. After all, you can tell a lot about a person based on their signature. A signature with a lot of flourish might indicate someone who likes to be the center of attention. A signature with no frills gives off the impression of a person who is all business. Lazy folks might have a sloppy signature. And an illegible signature is a pretty good indication that the person doesn't care at all about such things.
The Lakers signature is every bit as symbolic of the Lakers team, because if there is one word I would use to describe this victory, it would be dysfunctional. The word dysfunctional is almost always thrown around in a negative context, and nine times out of ten the context is well deserved. But dysfunctional does not always mean broken. It can also indicate something which is functioning strangely.
The Lakers as a franchise are dysfunctional in the negative sense. The front office is dysfunctional because there seems to be a gap in communication at all levels, from ownership to management to coaching staff to players. The coaches are dysfunctional because they took over a roster suited to a certain brand of basketball that is no longer an option. The roster is dysfunctional because acquisitions were made based on greater plans that have not come to fruition, and further moves hang over the heads of the remaining stars like a guillotine. The Lakers, from top to bottom, are dysfunctional.
This game was dysfunctional for other reasons. The Lakers beat a strong opponent, on the opponent's home floor, and they did so despite turning the ball over on nearly 20% of their possessions. They won despite giving up offensive rebounds on 30% of the opponent's missed shots. They won despite shooting just 58% from the free throw line, despite missing seven free throws in the final minute of the game alone. They won despite a poor performance from their superstar, who missed 11 of 15 shots and turned the ball over 7 times.
They won because their maligned bench went toe to toe with one of the best benches in the league. They won because their soft, distracted-by-trade-rumors, big man was the most aggressive player on the court. They won because the worst starting point guard in the league led the team to victory. They won because the very same superstar who struggled all game, and has a penchant for hero ball in the final moments of close contests, made two glorious passes to his supporting cast to ensure points and the victory down the stretch.
Were the Lakers broken in this game? Absolutely not. But were they functioning strangely? Absolutely. It was a dysfunctional win, for a dysfunctional team. No game could have better communicated who the Lakers are. It was the perfect signature win, even if that signature is far from perfect.