Zalgiris Kaunas play host to CSKA Moscow tonight in the Euroleague.
No team knows better than CSKA Moscow what an early stumble in the regular season can mean.
Its first-game loss last year started a chain reaction that saw CSKA's eight-year Final Four streak snapped before even the Top 16.
Zalgiris has advanced to the Top 16 after losing a home opener only once since the turn of the century.
With a tough group and only nine games afterwards to make up the difference, this evening's loser will be climbing uphill to start the season.
What's more, both teams made ambitious roster moves in the offseason and want to see those rewarded with a momentum-building first victory.
That sentiment goes double for Zalgiris, playing its first Euroleague home game at the beautiful, new Zalgirio Arena.
Zalgiris hopes to have Milovan Rakovic back in uniform for the opener. Injuries sidelined him from the first two games in the Lithuanian League.
CSKA's frontcourt has experienced a handful of injuries recently. Forward Andrey Vorontsevich has missed time with a back injury and Viktor Khryapa is dealing with a bad ankle.
Darjus Lavrinovic has played through a hand injury, while Sasha Kaun has returned to action after a long layoff.
Much of the Zalgiris attack is based on its perimeter players, so the CSKA guards will have to be at their best on both ends of the floor.
A key matchup looms between Teodosic and Kalnietis, since the former is a key to the CSKA offense, but not renowned for his defensive skills. Javtokas must find a way to shut down CSKA's chief interior scorer, Krstic, to limit the visitors.
Weems has been Zalgiris's top scorer so far in the Lithuanian League and could be a difference-maker in this game, but will have to also defend veteran Ramunas Siskauskas, a former MVP looking to jump-start CSKA this season in his home country.