It is nice sometimes to watch high-level games with a certain emotional and/or professional detachment in order to simply appreciate what it means to compete and be great.
When you are invested so heavily in one geographic area and its teams — Minnesota for me and for many of you — watching playoff games becomes a stress test more than anything.
There's baggage and history informing how we watched the Wild or Wolves recently in the playoffs. And when your (admittedly fun) job is to write and talk about those games and teams, the story becomes more important than anything.
But hey, we don't have those teams to worry about in the playoffs any more. While that's a frustration more than a boon, it does create space to just sit and enjoy sports.
As I talked about on Tuesday's Daily Delivery podcast, that sentiment struck me as I watched the last quarter-and-a-half of the Lakers' 104-101 win over Golden State on Monday night.
It was set up perfectly to be a classic, with the road team but higher seed (Golden State) trailing the series 2-1. Both teams clearly knew the significance, and the effort matched the importance.
More than that, though, it was two generational players — LeBron James and Steph Curry — trying to drag teams that had mediocre regular seasons into an improbable berth in the conference finals.
Both of them have won four NBA titles, all since 2012. Curry (35) and LeBron (38) are both near the top of their games, but both have slowed down from their peak. Neither have the same supporting cast that they have enjoyed in the past.
And each of them has to realize that the opportunity to make a deep playoff run this season is both unexpected AND might not materialize much more in their careers.
They didn't shoot great — 40% each from the field, including a combined 5 for 23 from three-point range. Curry missed a pair of shots and had a turnover late. LeBron deferred to surprising hero Lonny Walker IV.
But Curry played 42 minutes, had a triple-double and was the only reason Golden State was anywhere close to winning. James had 27 points, nine rebounds and six assists in 43 minutes, at one point in the fourth quarter coming out of the game for what seemed like 20 seconds before subbing back in.
Two ultimate competitors who have already done it all but still want more. It was the beauty of sports, a testament to greatness, and it was a pleasure to just sit back and take it all in.
Here are four more things you should know today:
*Byron Buxton's transformation into a full-time (at least for now) DH is a fun tale well-told by Phil Miller. It's also fodder for great debate because of Buxton's relative value as a sublime fielder vs. his propensity to get injured slamming into walls and turf.
*The words West Virginia men's basketball coach Bob Huggins used on a radio show were shocking, but the casualness with which he said them was equally stunning.
*I wrote Monday about keeping an eye on the Knicks-Heat series as it relates to a possible New York interest in Karl-Anthony Towns. Well, the Knicks are now on the verge of elimination and Julius Randle is feeling more and more like a prime trade candidate — for better or worse if you are a Wolves fan — after scoring 20 points but committing six turnovers and fouling out in Monday's loss.
*If the Washington Commanders committed tampering by inquiring about the long-retired Andrew Luck last year, it will be amusing to say the least.