letting my emotions run free a bit. Here's my embarrassing example - my teammate scored a game-tying basket with just 1 second remaining and while my teammates were celebrating, I fought every ounce of my body to not
celebrate because I knew the game wasn't over yet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cIv4IgLByA
As you realized, what tends to happen when we let ourselves go a bit, even if it's sometimes illogical, is our adrenaline spikes and our competitive spirit sky rockets. We're able to trick ourselves into believing there's a lot more on the line than there really is, which allows us then to dig deeper and perform with a sense of desire and urgency. Whereas, sometimes if we're always reminding ourselves it's just a game, we may be putting ourselves at a disadvantage.
For me, tapping into that next level meant letting myself fist-pump after a crucial block. Or maybe raising my fist in celebration after a clutch basket. It even meant responding to a poor call by an official, even though I knew nothing would be done about it, only because letting that emotion out will often keep me engaged in the game. It also meant not concerning myself with building friendships with opponents during games. The real ball players understand there's no friendship on the hardwood
. As you discovered, those real guys understand there's a difference between "on the court" and "off the court". Let yourself run free.