The Adelaide 36ers are within touching distance of their first NBL grand final series in 12 years after convincingly downing the Melbourne Tigers 101-85 on Thursday night.
It was a dominant victory in game one of the best-of-three semi-final series at Adelaide Arena.
Gary Ervin was a stand-out for the 36ers, finishing with 27 points, six rebounds and seven assists as he toyed with the Melbourne defence.
Daniel Johnson (15 points, seven rebounds) was also prominent for the 36ers – wooden spooners the past two seasons – who take a 1-0 lead ahead of Sunday’s second match at Hisense Arena in Melbourne.
It was the first-quarter injection of effervescent Rhys Carter, who had 17 points and hit five of nine three-point attempts, that allowed the 36ers to recover from an early Chris Goulding (20 points) onslaught and take charge of the contest.
Goulding, the NBL’s leading scorer, looked unstoppable from the opening whistle as he drilled three triples in less than a minute as the Tigers established a 26-16 advantage in six exhilarating minutes.
But Goulding went scoreless for the rest of the quarter – and the half – after Carter came off the bench and played some ripping defence on the Melbourne talisman.
At the other end, Carter chalked up nine quickfire points to pilot a 15-0 finish to the term which helped Adelaide regroup and lead by five at quarter-time.
Carter continued his rampage in the second stanza, magnificently swatting Nate Tomlinson’s fast-break lay-up and at the other end soaring for an offensive board, dribbling out and draining another basket.
That steered the hosts to a 53-47 half-time edge before Ervin caught fire from the perimeter to give Adelaide a 77-65 three-quarter-time advantage.
The long range missiles continued in the fourth, big men Anthony Petrie and Johnson slotting triples before Ervin’s four-point play blew it out to 87-68.
The Tigers tried to claw their way back but their charge was halted by a combination of a leg injury sustained by key point guard Nate Tomlinson (12 points, 12 assists) and an inspired Ervin.
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