Credit: EuroLeague Basketball via GettyImages
Credit EuroLeague Basketball via GettyImages

The EuroLeague star Nikola Mirotic was an inch away from making history. 

In two Final Four games at Belgrade, the MVP of the season went off for a combined index rating (PIR) of 66. 

It is the second-highest performance in Final Four history behind only Shane Larkin, who had 67 PIR in 2019.

In the semifinal loss against Real Madrid, Mirotic was close to marking the highest PIR ever (39). Once again, Larkin tops the record books with 43 in the 2019 semifinals.

Forward has been criticized for not showing up in the most critical games. Mirotic shut down the critics with a stellar individual performance.

That adds only more disappointment to Barcelona's campaign.

"It's sad for all of us. But I also feel sorry for Mirotic," Sarunas Jasikevicius told BasketNews after the 3rd place victory over Olympiacos Piraeus.

"He made a huge step this year in developing his killer mentality by being consistent and understanding the system. He understood how not to force a game against the double or triple team. This year I was really impressed with Mirotic's maturity. We're extremely happy about him," Barcelona's head coach added.

Saras already defended his player in the playoff series against FC Bayern Munich.

Mirotic went for two 20+ points playoff performances for the first time in his career.

"In two years together, he really stepped forward in understanding that he won't win everything by himself," Jasikevicius explained.

"Now he really feels more comfortable against double or triple teams. We saw that he was forcing the game too much when I came. He wanted to prove everything by himself. But now he has the same kind of numbers. That pleases me the most," Jasikevicius added.

2-pointers this season

Points made: 20,2
Accuracy: 54,8%
Place in standings: 4
Record max: 27
Record min: 9
Most made 2FGs: Brandon Davies

This EuroLeague season Mirotic averaged 16.9 points on 65.% 2-point and 46.3% 3-point shooting. He also had 5.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 20.1 PIR per game.

In three seasons with FC Barcelona, Mirotic had better numbers only in his first year (2019-20), when he averaged 19 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 22.5 PIR.

Barca ranked third in the EuroLeague standings, but the season was canceled due to coronavirus.

"I'm not trying to prove anyone wrong and just enjoying this game and doing my best," Mirotic told BasketNews in Belgrade.

Player PIR Final Four
Shane Larkin 67 2019
Nikola Mirotic 66 2022
Ekpe Udoh 65 2017
Anthony Parker 65 2004
Dejan Bodiroga 60 2002

Jasikevicius left the Final Four in Belgrade with a feeling of a wasted opportunity.

"The championships measure our season. Now we're not champions," Jasikevicius told BasketNews.

"There is a feeling inside our team that the best EuroLeague team didn't win a title. But we all know that the best team doesn't necessarily win the title. We leave Belgrade with the idea of a waisted Final Four opportunity," a 46-year-old Lithuanian concluded.

After the semifinal loss to Real Madrid, Jasikevicius emphasized the lack of a killers mentality.

Barca was lacking one crucial killer this year. Primary shooting guard Cory Higgins appeared in only 40% of EuroLeague games this year and was heavily affected by injuries.

He managed to recover on the eve of the Final Four but couldn't deliver at the level he used to.

"Cory is one of these players who went through the most. He has the right mentality and huge experience. But we didn't have him this season. It is what it is," Jasikevicius told.

Asked if it's possible to develop a killer's mentality or if Barca now has to look for a 'killer' in the summer free agency, Jasikevicius shared his thoughts.

"Something comes from genes, from inside. We discuss with our coaches that it's already a good thing if we manage to improve it by at least 1-2%. It already might impact, for example, a Final Four game.

But we have a disease. And when you're facing an illness, you have to fight it. We encourage players to push each other and to talk with each other. Because there's no other way. If there were one formula, everybody would use it. But this is not how it goes. We have to continue to work on this."

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Nikola Mirotic

Nikola  Mirotic
Team: FC Barcelona
Position: PF, SF
Age: 31
Height: 208 cm
Weight: 102 kg
Birth place: Podgorica, Montenegro