Mike Conley was pleased just to get in some good competition with the NBA season suspended during the coronavirus outbreak.
That he won ESPN’s H-O-R-S-E Challenge, beating Zach LaVine in the championship match aired Thursday night, was secondary to the entertainment value.
“It was a fun environment to be a part of,” Conley (H-O) of the Utah Jazz said on ESPN after beating LaVine of the Chicago Bulls. “This gave us all something to do at a time we’re all sitting around the house.”
Conley (H-O) reached the final by beating former NBA star Chauncey Billups, while LaVine (H-O-R) ousted WNBA star Allie Quigley of the Chicago Sky.
Conley, who was playing from an indoor gym in Columbus, Ohio, quickly saddled LaVine with H-O, the second letter coming when Conley made a free throw with both his eyes closed while LaVine missed his matching attempt.
LaVine, playing outdoors in Snohomish, Washington, later was at H-O-R and within one letter after Conley missed a three-point bank from the top of the key. But Conley converted back-to-back shots, the second a running hook over the backboard that LaVine was unable to match, saddling with him H-O-R-S-E.
“You deserve that championship, I’ll let you know that,” LaVine said after falling short. “I did everything I could. I got a real tough opponent in the championship game, and he had some tricks I hadn’t seen before.
“It was fun. It comes down to making shots and he made some really, really, really tough shots.”
Conley expressed his joy about seeing LaVine.
“It was good to see another NBA guy, man,” Conley said. “Cooped up in the house. It was good to see you.”
In the semi-finals, also aired Thursday, Conley finished off Billups with a two-handed underhand free throw. The former star known as “Mr Big Shot” could only marvel at Conley’s performance.
“Mike was a little too tough,” Billups, who was playing in Denver, said. “He’s got too many trick shots for me.”
LaVine repeatedly used his athleticism in his semi-final win over Quigley, who was playing in Deerfield, Illinois. That prompted Quigley, one of the WNBA’s best three-point shooters, to remind LaVine that he made 13 three-pointers in a game earlier this season.
LaVine didn’t take the bait and eventually finished off his Chicago hoopster counterpart.
“It was so much fun,” Quigley said afterward. “It was such a good experience.”
Quigley had defeated 10-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the quarter-finals, which were shown Sunday.
In the other quarter-finals, Billups beat Atlanta Hawks star guard Trae Young, LaVine swept NBA Hall of Famer Paul Pierce, and Conley defeated former WNBA star Tamika Catchings, who is slated to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in late August.