The Perth Wildcats are one win away from a record sixth NBL championship after taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three grand final series against Adelaide at Perth Arena tonight.
The Wildcats claimed a hard-fought 92-85 triumph ahead in front of 13,291 raucous fans, with American stars James Ennis and Jermaine Beal leading the way.
Ennis scored a game-high 30 points, while Beal had 19 and stepped up to run the point when captain Damian Martin found himself in foul trouble early.
It was just the fourth time in his career that Ennis had reached 30 points in a single game.
Adelaide big man Daniel Johnson produced his usual solid performance against the Wildcats with 18
points, while Brendan Teys and Anthony Petrie added 14 each.
Traditional rivals Perth and Adelaide had met a league-record 110 times before tonight’s match, but had never previously contested a grand final.
It was worth the wait, as the teams traded blows throughout an intense contest.
The fans were on their feet early, cheering a big dunk from Knight before crowd-favourite Ennis got involved.
The American star had a point to prove after missing out on the league MVP award, which went to Wollongong’s Rotnei Clarke last week.
Ennis had a nervous start in his only previous finals game in Perth during the semifinal series against the Hawks, but an early three-point play and a huge one-handed dunk before quarter-time helped him settle into the game against Adelaide.
At the other end, it was Johnson keeping the Sixers in the contest.
Martin was forced to the bench with three fouls halfway through the second quarter, but Beal turned up the heat on the offensive end to lead the Wildcats to an 11-point lead at the main break.
Adelaide worked their way back into the contest during the second half and the margin was cut to just three points in the dying seconds when Johnson scored a bucket.
But the Wildcats held on to claim a crucial win after Beal delivered on the foul line.
Attention now turns to Adelaide Arena for Friday's game on a court where the Wildcats are winless this season.
Adelaide won the two previous meetings by an average of 14 points, but the record included a blowout in round 22 after the Wildcats had already wrapped up the minor premiership.
The Wildcats will have grand final history on their side.
The past 15 best-of-three grand final series have been won by the team that took a 1-0 lead.
Now-defunct South East Melbourne Magic were the last team to win a best-of-three series after losing game one, coming from behind to beat city rivals Melbourne Tigers in 1996.