NBA HORSE challenge takeaways: Mike Conley beats Zach LaVine in finals with layup behind the backboard

NBA HORSE challenge takeaways: Mike Conley beats Zach LaVine in finals with layup behind the backboard

The first NBA HORSE challenge is in the books. After an interesting two-day event, Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley took home the title thanks to his indoor gym and ambidextrousness. After cruising past WNBA legend Tamika Catchings in the first round, Conley beat retired guard Chauncey Billups in the semis, and Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine in the finals.

With real NBA games postponed indefinitely due to the coronavirus outbreak, the league tried to help basketball fans everywhere scratch their itch with a HORSE tournament. The action started on Sunday with the first round, and continued on Thursday with the semifinals and final. 

In the first semifinal matchup, Conley took down fellow point guard Chauncey Billups, while LaVine used his athleticism to outlast WNBA All-Star Allie Quigley. Unfortunately for LaVine, it started raining during the final, and he wasn’t able to pull out all of his tricks on the wet ground. With Conley inside, and able to use both hands, LaVine never really stood a chance. 

Here’s a recap of the entire bracket:

NBA HORSE Challenge final

  • Mike Conley defeated Zach LaVine

Semifinal results

  • Semifinal: Mike Conley defeated Chauncey Billups
  • Semifinal: Zach LaVine defeated Allie Quigley

Round 1 results

  • Chauncey Billups defeated Trae Young 
  • Mike Conley defeated Tamika Catchings
  • Zach LaVine defeated Paul Pierce
  • Allie Quigley defeated Chris Paul

And now, a few takeaways from the action

Good effort, but event falls a bit flat

The HORSE Challenge was a creative idea by the league, and it was fun early on to see some players out there competing and talking a little bit of trash. But overall the event fell a bit flat. It really wasn’t anyone’s fault, it’s just hard to make this kind of event entertaining in general, and near impossible when everyone is in different states and filming on phones and tablets. And that doesn’t even take into account the elements — Tamika Catchings was playing in the freezing wind, and LaVine was playing through rain in the finals — which made for uneven contests. 

Everyone is doing their best under the circumstances, so you don’t want to criticize those who participated or put it together, but this probably isn’t worth repeating. 

Call him Mike “Indoors” Conley

We already went through this in detail after the first round, so we don’t have to completely rehash the point, but it was such an incredible advantage for Conley to be playing in a gym when everyone else was outside. That became even more clear when during the final, it started raining in Washington where LaVine was playing, and the Bulls guard couldn’t jump around like he wanted to. Again, this isn’t some official or important event, so it’s not that big of a deal, but there should be some sort of asterisk next to Conley’s title.  

Karma comes for LaVine

LaVine is one of the best athletes in the league right now, but unfortunately for him, HORSE is a no-dunking game, and always has been. Despite not being allowed to rock the rim, LaVine was determined to use his athleticism to his advantage. His acrobatic layups quickly eliminated Paul Pierce in the first round, and in the semis he came back from a deficit to take down Quigley. The latter win was a bit controversial, however, as even though he wasn’t technically dunking, he was pulling off moves the Sky guard couldn’t physically complete. 

Unfortunately for LaVine, karma came back to bite him in the final. As he tried to compete against the crafty “Indoors” Conley, it started raining, which meant LaVine couldn’t fly around and pull out all of his tricks. As a result, he was only able to get two letters on Conley, and took the loss. 

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