Boone-Johnson pivotal match-up in NBL Finals

And then there were two.

The NBL Finals series is set and, boy, oh boy, it promises to be an absolute belter.

Neither Perth Wildcats nor the New Zealand Breakers will be crowned NBL champions for the first time in almost a decade, marking the end of a sustained period of excellence that won't likely be repeated anytime soon.

But the title-deciding match-up between Melbourne United and the Adelaide 36ers has its own mouth-watering prospects that lend a scintillating air to proceedings.

It's been a roller-coaster season for both teams, with form, injuries and controversies all playing their devilish part throughout their respective campaigns. But both teams found form at the right time, with United in particular stringing together a dominant stretch that established them as the putative title favourites well before the post-season began. To have done so without their established superstar in Casey Prather was all the more impressive, with fellow U.S. imports Josh Boone, Casper Ware, and Prather's replacement, Carrick Felix, all playing their roles to perfection.

First-year coach Dean Vickerman maintained the team's composure during Prather's absence, winning NBL Coach of the Year honours in the process (although his sartorial splendour may have had as big a say in that award as anything else).

Throw in a bench deep in talent and experience, and United present a monumental challenge.

But it's a challenge that Adelaide won't be shying away from.

Indeed, the team from the City of Churches openly welcomes a scrap; they "could start a row in an empty house", as legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson once remarked about spiky Wimbledon and Chelsea player Dennis Wise.

Coach Joey Wright has built a team that is as hard-headed as it is skilful, with a bevy of talent at his disposal that runs at a red-line tempo from go to whoa.

With a mix of imposing Australian players including all-NBL Team members Mitch Creek and Daniel Johnson, combined with rock-solid U.S. imports, the 36ers have no intentions of backing away from their hunt for their first title since 2002.

All over the court there are head-to-head clashes that have the hallmarks of a classic series.

In the backcourt, Ware and Chris Goulding go up against Shannon Shorter and Nathan Sobey -- a matchup worth the price of admission on its own.

But it's up front where the real intrigue lies.

Creek and Josh Childress taking on Prather and the hugely improved Tai Wesley? Yes, please.

Ultimately though, the Boone vs. Johnson match-up may be the pivotal clash.

The American has been the engine room of United's championship quest, sending Melbourne to the title decider with a huge game -- including the buzzer-beating game winner -- against the Breakers.

Johnson, meanwhile, has put together his most consistent season to garner All-NBL honours that means his continued omission from the national team is as notable as it is baffling.

On paper, United look to have the edge with home court advantage sure to play its part. But just to throw in a skerrick of doubt, Adelaide have no fear of winning away from the friendly confines of Titanium Security Arena -- as their come-from-behind, series-clinching win over Perth showed.

With the championship series tipping off in Melbourne on Friday, all that remains is to roll out the ball and let the chips fall where they may. United have the power, the 36ers have the pace.

Prediction: United 3, Adelaide 1