Melbourne United have drawn on their championship-winning experience from last season to advance to the 2019 NBL grand final but their quest for back-to-back titles hangs on another victory away from home.
United eliminated a battle-hardened New Zealand Breakers in the 2018 semi-finals thanks to a memorable overtime win in Auckland to complete a 2-0 series sweep.
With Casper Ware leading the charge, they repeated the dose in front of 14,569 fans at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday, defeating the Sydney Kings 90-76 to set up a grand final clash with the top-ranked Perth Wildcats.
"We talked about going to New Zealand last year in that second game on the road and just how when it's back to the wall, what that other team is going to bring," Melbourne coach Dean Vickerman said about his team's approach leading into Sunday's clash.
"I thought (Ware) was special in just keeping us close during that period."
Ware scored 17 of his game-high 30 points in the opening quarter to prevent the Kings grabbing early momentum.
United captain Chris Goulding then broke Sydney hearts, last season's grand final MVP piling on 23 points through the second and third quarters as Melbourne built a match-winning lead.
With Goulding slotting into a new role as the team's sixth-man, Vickerman praised the way he has handled the shift to remain one of the NBL's deadliest shooters.
"Whether he starts or doesn't start, it doesn't really matter to being recognised as one of the best players in the league," he said.
While Goulding's offence was a highlight, his coach was equally pleased with his work at the defensive end of the floor.
"I thought he made progress last year and this last five or six games, he's just gone to another level defensively again," Vickerman said.
"Our huge improvement as a team is how we continue to deal with off-ball screening and on-ball screening and he's getting really elite right now."
Having given themselves the opportunity to defend their title, the United coach knows they will need to register at least one win in Perth in order to achieve this.
"We didn't get the home-court advantage so now we have to win one of those games - we have to go and be great on the road," Vickerman said.
Australian Associated Press