THE Adelaide 36ers have overcome the absence of suspended star Gary Ervin to hammer the Melbourne Tigers 102-63 to book in a grand final match-up with the Perth Wildcats.
Ervin, a former MVP of the league and leader of the 36ers in his first season, was suspended for the deciding Game 3 of the semi-final series after he was found guilty for kneeing Tigers star Chris Goulding in the second game in Melbourne.
The Tigers won that game at Hisense Arena by 11 points on Sunday afternoon to force the Game 3 back in Adelaide on Tuesday, and when Ervin was suspended by the NBL on Monday, it appeared all the momentum was with Melbourne.
While it's hard to argue that Ervin's actions didn’t deserve a suspension, it was a bizarre time for the NBL to finally decide to penalise a player.
The worst any other player, or indeed coaching staff, has been penalised has been a fine in recent years even when brawls have ensued and punches thrown, but now on the eve of a deciding Game 3 of a semi-final series, the NBL decided to suspend one of the best players in the contest.
However, whether that spurred Adelaide on or if the 36ers simply proved themselves far too good for the Tigers, the result on Tuesday night was a thumping 39-point hammering at Adelaide Arena.
That sees Adelaide book a grand final appearance with the Perth Wildcats with Game 1 to be played next Monday night at Perth Arena.
The Wildcats and 36ers have had a storied rivalry throughout their respective histories in the NBL and with nine championships between them, can certainly be considered the two best franchises in the history of the league.
Even when Perth has been a top team in recent years and Adelaide has been languishing at the bottom, the 36ers have still managed to do well against the Wildcats and win more than they have lost.
This year the clashes have been fascinating with Perth winning its two games at home by a total of 27 points while Adelaide won its two matches at home by a combined 28 points.
The last clash in Perth back on February 14 saw wild post-match scenes when every player and the coaching staff of both teams get involved, but the NBL didn’t take any action on that occasion.
As for Tuesday's game, Adelaide simply never looked like losing from the outset in front of a raucous home crowd desperate to see the 36ers win their way into a grand final for the first time since 2002.
By the end of the first quarter, the 36ers had opened up a nine-point advantage over the Tigers and they dominated the contest the rest of the way.
The Sixers' then ended up leading by as much as 44 points before eventually winning by 39.
Daniel Johnson led the way on the night for Adelaide finishing with 23 points and six rebounds on the back of shooting 8-of-13 from the field.
In the absence of point guard Ervin, Jason Cadee stepped up in an extended role also for the Sixers and he starred with 19 points, five rebounds and four assists while shooting 7-of-11 from the floor.
Tough nut Anthony Petrie added 13 points and seven boards as well for Adelaide with captain Adam Gibson finishing with nine points and eight rebounds, Mitch Creek eight points and five boards, and BJ Anthony eight points and seven rebounds.
Just weeks after scoring 50 points in a game against Sydney, Goulding managed just six points for Melbourne in 28 minutes of court time shooting just 1-of-5 from the field.
Lucas Walker was the only Tigers player to score in double-figures with 11 points with Nate Tomlinson and Tommy Greer finishing on nine apiece, and former 36ers captain and multiple-time MVP Adam Ballinger eight and six rebounds.