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Kobe-led NBA stars win against Smart Gilas, 98-89

Manny Pacquiao's late entrance briefly steals the show
Smart All Stars’ Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets gets away from Smart Gilas’ Asi Taulava and Dondon Hontiveros for an easy basket during the conclusion of the Ultimate All-Star Weekend at the Araneta Coliseum yesterday.
Smart All Stars’ Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets gets away from Smart Gilas’ Asi Taulava and Dondon Hontiveros for an easy basket during the conclusion of the Ultimate All-Star Weekend at the Araneta Coliseum yesterday.

MANILA, Philippines (July 25, 2011) - Playing coach Kobe Bryant led the Smart All-Stars to victory against Smart Gilas Pilipinas, the Philippine national basketball team, 98-89, yesterday evening - a foregone conclusion because the Nationals were never given much of a chance against the NBA stars.

A day before Kobe and company overpowered a Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) selection team, 131-105.

Playing before a jam-packed crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Bryant and his star-studded crew that included reigning MVP Derrick Rose, two-time scoring champion Kevin Durant and former Rookie of the Year Chris Paul still didn’t disappoint as they dazzled the crowd the way they did Saturday night when they overpowered the PBA selection team - with rim-rattling slams, razor-sharp crossover moves and nifty passes.

Smart Gilas, priming up for the FIBA-Asia Championship in September, was as awed but played the way the NBA stars and fans would have liked it – tough and rough.

“They played extremely well, they’ve very talented players, they know how to play as a team and executed their plays,” said Bryant in a short post-game interview at center court.

“It’s a tremendous honor to play here. Thank you for the love and passion you have in the sport. I hope this will not be the last,” he added.

“We had a lot of fun out there, we had a lot of competition,” said reigning MVP and Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose.

After flushing in over 30 dunks against the local pros the night before, the Smart All-Stars slowed down with just 14 slams this time, including six from the seven-foot Washington Wizards’ JaVale McGee, who has a wingspan of a nine-footer. He capped it with a Statue-of-Liberty dunk late in the game.

There were also some bumping matches.

Left to guard two-time scoring champion Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma Thunder in an isolation play, Asi Taulava, one of the five PBA reinforcements in the team, forced the former out of bounds with his wide body and was called for a foul.

“It was one of the best days of my life,” said Durant.

Dondon Hontiveros likewise defended Bryant as tough as he could in another post-up play and he too was called for a foul.

While NBA stars wowed the crowd with their awe-inspiring moves, the Filipinos also had their share of moments too.

Japeth Aguilar rammed in a pair of spectacular slams – the first in a breakaway play against Durant early in the game and the other when he slammed in an alley-oop pass from Chris Tiu before the break.

Naturalized Marcus Douthit also came through with a pair of dunks – off a putback after a missed triple by Fil-Am Marcio Lassiter and off an alley-oop play from Mac Baracael both in the fourth quarter.

The visiting squad actually led by as many as 22 points, 65-43, after Rose, cheered on by the crowd, drove in early in the third quarter before Smart Gilas made a big run to close to within seven points.

Meanwhile, McGee, who owns the world record of the most balls dunked in a single jump with three in this year’s NBA slam dunk competition where he finished second to eventual winner and ROY Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers, begged off from the slam dunk side event because of migraine.

He still finished with 16 points, the same output put in by the sweet-shooting Durant while Bryant topscored with 17 points.

The other members of the Smart All Stars were Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings, the “Bearded One” James Harden of the Thunder, Derek Fisher of the Los Angeles Lakers and rookie Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Lassiter led the Nationals with 16 points while Douthit, Chris Lutz and Hontiveros chipped in 14, 12 and 11 points, respectively.

While the Americans scored most on close range and dunks, the Filipinos did their thing from beyond the arc where they drained 11, including four by JV Casio, three by Hontiveros and a pair from Tiu.

The NBA stars had five triples.

Chris Paul, a former ROY and who nearly won the MVP in 2008, was impressed by the way Filipino guards played.

“The guards in the Philippines are really good, they play defense, pressures a lot that you’ll always like to see in a team. They’re just like international players, everybody can shoot the ball,” he said.

Boxing pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao arrived with 10.42 minutes remaining in the contest and halted play for a few minutes to shake hands with Bryant and the rest of the NBA players, who also posed with the Filipino champion.

Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman used 14 of his 15 players as Ranidel de Ocampo was forced to just sit out with a broken nose and missed the once-in-a-lifetime experience.

A sidelight of the match was the showstopping entrance of boxing’s pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao early in the fourth quarter of the game.

As Pacquiao walked the sideline to sit beside Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas chief Manny Pangilinan, whose MVP Sports Foundation made this once-in-a-lifetime experience happen, the frantic crowd greeted him with chants of “Manny! Manny! Manny!” amid the live action.

And when deadball finally came, Kobe Bryant jogged from their bench to the other side to greet and shake hands with Pacquiao.

In response, Pacquiao, on white polo and jeans, walked to shake hands with the rest of the NBA players.

There, the NBA players posed for pictures with the Filipino champion instead of the other way around and was given a chance to speak.

“Thank you for coming,” were the only clearer words heard amid the din of the noise that drowned his speech with shouts of “Manny! Manny! Manny!” again.

When Paul, who’s an avid boxing fan and boxes himself while not playing ball, was asked by host Mo Twister how many round he will last, the player called CP3 readily answered: “I wouldn’t last 15 seconds.”

And then Paul went to the center court shadow boxing as if goading Pacquiao to spar with him. Pacquiao just ignored it and went back to his seat. (From, Vox Bikol)