Every season, as soon as the calendar comes out, there are certain games that fans circle on the calendar and rush to buy tickets for. When it comes to Zalgiris Kaunas, every game at Zalgirio Arena is a basketball celebration, but some bring out extra levels of passion. Likewise, when the Coach Sarunas Jasikevicus and his Lithuanian champs visit other towns, those fans sense a special game. Here are some of Zalgiris's 2019-20 games that arouse special interest.
Round 6: Good mojo in Istanbul
Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul has been a thorn in Zalgiris's side in recent years with wins in nine of their last 11 meetings, including at the 2018 EuroLeague Final Four in Belgrade. However, Zalgiris has also played some of its best basketball in Istanbul and has beaten Fenerbahce on its home floor in each of the past two seasons. Last season that win came in Game 2 of the playoffs as Zalgiris wrested away home-court advantage before Fenerbahce came back to win out in Kaunas. Add to their budding rivalry the mentee/mentor relationship between Coaches Sarunas Jasikevicius and Zeljko Obradovic and you have a special game on the Zalgiris calendar.
Round 7: Barca stars come home
When Zalgiris made its historic march to the 2018 Final Four, point guard Kevin Pangos and Brandon Davies were two of the team's biggest performers. Pangos was an All-EuroLeague selection and Davies was MVP of April after playing a huge role in the playoffs against Olympiacos Piraeus. Pangos signed for FC Barcelona last summer, while Davies came back and earned All-EuroLeague honors himself last season. In this early November game, Pangos and Davies visit their former home for the first time together. A meeting with Barcelona also means a chance for Coach Jasikevicius to test himself against Svetislav Pesic, who was Saras and Barcelona's coach in 2003 when they won the EuroLeague.
Round 15: Trying to end the Khimki slump
No team has had Zalgiris's number in recent seasons quite like Khimki Moscow Region, which has reeled off seven consecutive victories in games between the teams. Khimki is perfect in four home games against the Lithuanian champs, so what better way for Zalgiris to snap the jinx than by leaving Khimki with a road win? The rivalry between these teams has not risen to epic levels, at least not yet, but Zalgiris surely will be looking to snap its slump against Khimki as it seeks to establish itself as a perennial Final Four contender.
Round 20: Seeking another big result in Athens
Zalgiris swept Panathinaikos OPAP Athens last season and has now won four of five games against the Greek champs, but prior to 2018, Zalgiris had lost 10 straight in Athens. The trip to face Panathinaikos brings back nice memories for Coach Jasikevicius, who won a pair of EuroLeague crowns with the Greens, and point guard Lukas Lekavicius, who spent the past two seasons with the club. More than that, it's a clash at a key time in the season in which a win could spark another strong finish for Zalgiris.
Round 33: When rivalries and playoff races meet
This game in the penultimate round brings together the potential of a playoff race and hosting the Lithuanian champs’ oldest rival, CSKA Moscow. The deep-seated rivalry between Zalgiris and CSKA goes back to the days of the Soviet Union and always features a heated atmosphere at Zalgirio Arena. Last season, Zalgiris won its final six games to sneak into the playoffs. With the team looking to make a third straight playoff appearance, hosting the champs in Round 33 could be a decisive fixture.