Illawarra Hawks coach Brian Goorjian says the Perth Wildcats have been a blueprint for his emerging team as last season's wooden spooners aim to eliminate the two-time defending champions in game two of the semi-finals on Saturday night.
The Hawks overcame their bogey opponent in the series opener on Thursday with a gritty 74-72 comeback victory at RAC Arena.
It was just their second win in Perth from the past 36 attempts, giving the Hawks a stranglehold on the best-of-three series against a Wildcats outfit struggling without injured two-time MVP Bryce Cotton.
A victory at WIN Entertainment Centre in Wollongong would propel the Hawks into the grand final and continue their remarkable rejuvenation.
"I'm so excited about what's ahead," Goorjian said.
"We are dangerous and see ourselves as having a chance. We feel good.
"It is young and exciting but means nothing if we can't win the series."
Amid new ownership and an overhaul of the Hawks' playing roster, the recruitment of six-time championship coach Goorjian has proved a masterstroke.
Goorjian, who is considered the NBL's greatest ever coach, said 10-time champions Perth provided inspiration.
"We want to be like Perth and be consistent and get big crowds," he said.
"The only way to do that is to play basketball like they do.
"We have established that as a young group. This is a whole different franchise and organisation."
With momentum firmly behind the Hawks, the under-pressure Wildcats' bid for a hat-trick of titles is hanging by a thread.
In their record 35th straight finals appearance, the Wildcats led for the majority of game one but fell away late without the irresistible Cotton.
They also rued sloppy turnovers and were outworked on the glass, where the Hawks grabbed 14 offensive rebounds.
"It is hard to have a rebound if you don't go for it," Wildcats coach Trevor Gleeson said.
"You can't just live and die by the jump shot. You need energy and hustle points."
Gleeson, who has won five titles as Wildcats coach, implored his team to play with more urgency ahead of a must-win game two.
"It's the last chance we've got," he said.
"If we're not desperate then we don't deserve to go any further."