NBA stars put on a show anew; ‘Redeem team’ and co. sweat out win over Smart Gilas Pilipinas
MANILA—Kevin Durant was momentarily rendered powerless by a high-flying Japeth Aguilar dunk, Kobe Bryant couldn’t shake off a single-coverage defender at the post and Derrick Rose missed two pressure-free charities as chants of “M-V-P” engulfed the Coliseum.
The three American players, worshipped as gods in the basketball universe, were humans after all.
Nevertheless, the stellar cast of NBA supermen capped the Smart Ultimate All-Star Weekend with a thrilling 98-89 win over the Smart Gilas national team Sunday in a game replete with highlights every fan at the full-house Smart Dome won’t forget in a long time.
When the final buzzer sounded, the nine-man NBA crew and the national team, soaked by the crowd’s deafening adoration, gathered on center court for photos and autographs.
Seven-footer JaVale McGee of the Washington Wizards then untied the shoelaces of his size-15 boats and hurled them to the Upper Box section.
Four-time NBA All-Star MVP Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers joined in the fun and also tossed his pair of Nike high up in the stands.
“They have very talented players who played extremely well,” said Bryant, referring to the Rajko Toroman-coached national team.
“They know how to play as a team and executed their plays pretty well,” added the member of the gold-medal winning US “Redeem Team” in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
From an 85-67 deficit, the Nationals refused to call it a day as Marcio Lassiter, Marcus Douthit, JV Casio and Dylan Ababou conspired to chop it down to a single digit.
McGee was called for a goal-tending on a layup by Casio but made up for the miscue by running the length of the court and stuffing it in with his trademark Statue of Liberty slam.
Casio then drilled a three-pointer, 89-96, before rookie Derrick Williams of the Minnesota Timberwolves closed out the scoring with a rim-rattling windmill dunk.
“They have good guards who play defense well. You’ll love the team because everybody can shoot the ball,” said Chris Paul, Bryant’s teammate in the Olympics and a prime NBA point guard from the New Orleans Hornets.
The national team probably drew inspiration from Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, who arrived when Smart Gilas was trailing by 18 early in the fourth.
Bryant approached Pacquiao seated on the other side of the floor and exchanged pleasantries.
During a timeout, the world’s pound-for-pound boxing king went to the bench of the NBA stars, which also included Derek Fisher of the LA Lakers and James Harden of the Oklahoma Thunder, and greeted the visitors.
Paul even threw a banter on Pacquiao as the 2006 NBA rookie of the year playfully challenged the Pacman to a quick sparring by bobbing from side to side, drawing loud cheers up to the rafters.
WBO flyweight champion Brian Villoria, Senator Antonio Trillanes III, Philippine Olympic Committee chair Monico Puentevella, Ilocos Sur governor Chavit Singson and celebrities Willie Revillame and Aga Mulach were among the 20,000-plus crowd who attended the highly charged affair organized by the MVP Sports Foundation of chairman Manny V. Pangilinan as a gift to the fans.
Aguilar’s two-handed slam over Durant on a fast break kicked off the excitement in the first quarter and the two-time NBA scoring champion from the Oklahoma Thunder quickly retaliated with a thunderous throw down on the other end.
McGee, shackled by 6-foot-10 Marcus Douthit underneath, curled to the right and the NBA slam dunk competition runnerup from the Washington Wizards finally broke free for his first dunk of the match to the delight of the crowd.
Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings, Paul and Williams then launched a series of fan-titilating attacks before Marcio Lasiter’s three cut it down, 31-38, from a double-digit lead.
A lob by Smart Gilas skipper Chris Tiu to a streaking Aguilar led to another explosive jam and Evans converted from a steal with 1.3 ticks left to make it 55-37 at halftime.
“It’s an entirely different game than yesterday (against the PBA),” said national coach Rajko Toroman. “We tried to push the ball, shot well and even had the chance to keep it much closer.”
“It was practically a great experience for the team.”
Smart Gilas had several inspiring plays worthy of world-caliber competition.
The 6-foot-9 Aguilar stifled Bryant on the low blocks, forcing the two-time Finals MVP into a turnover.
Lassiter knocked the leather out of bounds after nearly snatching it from a driving Rose while Aguilar swatted away a high-arching shot by Evans.
SMART ALL-STARS 98—Bryant 17, McGee 16, Durant 16, Harden 15, Evans 9, Williams 8, Rose 6, Paul 6, Fisher 5.
SMART GILAS 89—Casio 16, Douthit 14, Lutz 12, Hontiveros 11, Lassiter 9, Tiu 8, Aguilar 6, Williams 4, Ababou 4, Alapag 3, Baracael 2, Ballesteros 0, Barroca 0, Taulava 0.
Quarters: 28-16; 55-37; 79-60; 98-89
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