The first round of the NBA HORSE Challenge went down on Sunday, and it didn’t disappoint.
Aside from a host of amazing trick shots, it also provided some major upsets as two of the pre-tournament favourites — All-Stars Trae Young and Chris Paul — fell at the very first hurdle. Former Finals MVPs in Paul Pierce and Tamika Catchings also went down in flames.
The HORSE Challenge, which is a creative way for the NBA to provide some entertainment while they try to finalise a plan to hold the playoffs amid the pandemic, is now wide open as it moves on to the semi-final and championship rounds later this week.
But first, SBOTOP breaks down all the exciting HORSE action that took place in the four quarter-final matchups.
Chauncey Billups mounts epic comeback to oust Trae Young
The NBA 2020 had Young as the favourite heading into the tournament. The Hawks All-Star can get hot in a hurry and has seemingly unlimited range that few players in the league can match.
Things were going according to plan early as Young made some tricky close-range baskets to put Billups in a HOR to none hole.
However, they don’t call Billups “Mr. Big Shot” for nothing. The former Finals MVP finally started to get going as the pressure mounted, while Young wilted. Billups got hot from long-range as he hit an array of 3-pointers to tie it all up at HOR.
And just like in his playing days, Billups kept his cool in the clutch to knock out the tournament favourite in the first round.
Mike Conley tops Tamika Catchings with off-hand clinic
Conley didn’t make too many NBA 2020 highlights in his first year with the Jazz this season as injuries and poor play led to an overall disappointing season. But the crafty veteran reminded everyone just good he and his off-hand can be.
The left-handed Conley rode his right hand to victory over 2020 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Tamika Catchings. Conley used his off hand to pick up four of the five letters on Catchings, who was clearly overmatched in this matchup.
Conley’s clinching shot was arguably his best as he used his right hand to lay the ball up over the backboard on the run.
With his off-hand brilliance, Conley has proven he will be a force to be reckoned with as he takes on Billups in the semi-finals.
Zach LaVine shuts out Paul Pierce
On paper, Zach LaVine vs Paul Pierce looked to be a fairly even matchup and had a chance to be quite competitive. But as it turned out, it was the most one-sided as LaVine strolled past the 2008 NBA Finals MVP.
LaVine, a two-time Slam Dunk champion, made good use of his superior athleticism to convert a couple of impressive shots around the basket. The 42-year-old Pierce, who wasn’t the most athletic player even in his prime, never stood a chance.
Pierce tried to keep up as best he could, but LaVine had an answer for every shot, whether it was from up close or long-range. In the end, Pierce didn’t even get a letter up on the Bulls star.
LaVine’s shot-making ability from just about everywhere on the court was seriously impressive stuff. That, coupled with his elite athleticism, should make him a strong candidate to go all the way.
Chris Paul falls to sharpshooter Allie Quigley
The last quarter-final between Allie Quigley and Chris Paul was hardly the least. Not only did it prove to be the most competitive of the four matchups, but it also delivered the biggest shock, as the WNBA All-Star knocked out one of the greatest point guards in NBA history.
After exchanging baskets for the first few rounds, Quigley quickly took control of the game. The two-time WNBA 3-point champion had Paul down HO after hitting a bank shot while sitting down on the ground. After more Paul misses, Quigley was on the cusp of victory as she went up HORS to H.
Ever the fierce competitor, Paul did his best to deny Quigley victory as he made three shots in a row to stay alive. But Paul’s valiant effort came to an end as he failed to hit a bank shot from the free-throw line.
Looking ahead, Quigley will be in a significant athleticism disadvantage against LaVine in the semi-finals. But as her brilliant performance against Paul proves, Quigley is more than capable of springing another massive surprise.
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