And you thought the Boston Celtics had something to prove?
Wait until you see the snit storm the Lakers walk into this afternoon at the Quicken Loans Arena against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Sure, there's that matter of revenge for the Lakers' resounding win over the Cavs back on Jan. 19 in Los Angeles, and the ever-present MVP debate between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
But these days the Cavaliers' ire is more of the mad-at-the-world variety. Cavaliers fans perceive the NBA and its commissioner, David Stern, to be acting as the proverbial "man" trying to keep the small-market Cavs down after point guard Mo Williams was snubbed not once, but twice out of an All-Star bid.
After keeping a stiff upper lip while other franchises openly salivated over James' potential free agency in 2010, choosing aplomb over R-rated linguistic bombs while others flouted league tampering rules, the Cavaliers have openly blown a gasket over Williams' perceived snub.
They're so mad, they apparently had to make up new words to express themselves.
"Ben Wallace was right when he called Mo originally being passed over for the All-Star Game a 'shamockery,'" owner Daniel Gilbert wrote in a fiery e-mail to the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Thursday. "But not naming him as the natural and obvious replacement for the unfortunately injured Jameer Nelson is stupidiculous, idillogical and preposterageous."
Personally, I think it's more silliodorous than preposterageous, but that's just me.
Whatever the adjective, the entire weight of the exponentially expanding chip on the Cavaliers' shoulders will be thrown at the Lakers this afternoon.
The question is, is Cleveland the kind of team that plays better when it's mad? Or will that weighty chip affect the Cavaliers' shooting stroke?
"I think they're hungry," Lakers guard Derek Fisher said. "LeBron and some of their other guys, I'm sure they're tired of having to hear they have to wait their turn. It's the Celtics' turn. Or it's our turn. It's always someone else's turn but theirs. They're on a mission."
At Quicken Loans Arena, the Cavs have been unbeatable this season, winning all 23 of their home games by an average of 15.7 points.
But unlike other rugged home-court advantages in the NBA, Cleveland's feels more like a love-in for the home squad than a death-trap for the visitors.
"I think it's actually a cool place to play because of the environment. It's almost like a party," Fisher said. "It's not one of those intimidating places. It's not a crowd where you get that you-might-not-make-it-out-alive feeling. It's not like Utah. It's a fun happening. The guy is on the microphone hyping the crowd up. They have all the LCD screens going."
The folks at home are cheering just as hard. Cleveland lost nearly 7 percent of its population from 2000-2006 and has the second-highest poverty rate (29.5 percent) in the country, making the Cavaliers' success a rallying point for the community and a source of pride in otherwise gloomy times.
The Cavs have the highest local television ratings in the league.
Just last week, a game against the Knicks drew a 10.7 rating in the Cleveland area, breaking the team's regular-season record and beating out "American Idol" and "Lost" in key male demographics.
Not exactly the kind of environment that's going to embrace the glitzy big-city team coming into their blue-collar Midwestern town.
Nevertheless, the Lakers, one franchise center and one space cadet lighter after Andrew Bynum's knee injury last Sunday and their clever trade of Vladimir Radmanovic on Saturday, will try to spoil the party for the home folks and get out of town a perfect 6-0 on their annual Grammy Awards road trip.
Now that would be preposterageous.