The New Zealand Breakers are a step closer to making another NBL Grand Final, with the reigning champs beating Melbourne United 91-82 in game one of their semi-final series in Melbourne.
The Breakers beat Melbourne twice last weekend, but were behind at half time, before they found their shooting range after the break.
Guard Cedric Jackson's 20 points helping New Zealand out to a 12-point lead with just under three minutes remaining in the game.
Jackson almost turned villain in the dying stages as he missed twice from the charity stripe with Melbourne shrinking the margin down to six in the final minute. But a series of missed baskets from United ultimately helped the Breakers hold on.
Breakers coach Dean Vickerman was impressed by dominant performances from big men Mika Vukona and Alex Pledger, who notched up 13 and 12 rebounds respectively to give New Zealand control of possession, but he saved special praise for his lead guard Jackson.
"He just loves those moments and I thought he walked out of the awards dinner with a little edge last night and I thought he had something to prove," Vickerman said post-game.
"Melbourne came out after half time and I think hit three three-balls really quickly in that third quarter. But there was no panic from us, which showed that finals experience. They just don't worry about the last play and just keep looking forward and I was really happy the way we closed out the game."
Tom Abercrombie hit 16 points for the Breakers, while Corey Webster had 14.
Melbourne coach Dean Demopoulos said his team now just simply had to get on with the job.
"We're going to strap it up, we're going to go back in there and put our head in the lion's mouth and see if we can take its teeth out," Demopoulos declared.
Game two is in Auckland on Saturday night.