Nikola Mirotic is one of the leading players in Europe in recent years. Already in his stage in Madrid, since he stood out as a young promise until he left consecrated in 2014 to the NBA (ACB MVP in 2013the best five in the League that year and the following, Cup MVP in 2014 and second best team in the Euroleague in 2013), the Spanish-Montenegrin has dominated in Spain and Europe with his fundamentals, his good hand from medium and long distance, his footwork in the area and a long etcetera that has made him in what is: a basketball superstar on the Old Continent.
This close to entering the all-time Euroleague Top-10 in points (12th right now) and valuation (13th), despite having spent five seasons playing on the other side of the pond. With his return to Europe, already fully, got another ACB MVP (2020)that of the League final in 2021 and his highest individual recognition so far, the Euroleague MVP in 2022. All these achievements, in addition to the collective ones (2 Leagues, 4 Cups and 2 Super Cups between Madrid and Barça) remain somewhat covered by what continues to be the great mole of his career: the Euroleague. And it won’t be because you haven’t tried. power forward He has played in the Final Four five times and on three of them, he reached the decisive match. But he has not yet lifted the title of European champion.
On Friday he had a new opportunity to stay one step away from the most desired trophy and this time he stumbled like never before. It was undoubtedly Mirotic’s worst game in a Final Four. In the 28 minutes he was on the track, he stayed in 3 points, with a horrendous shooting series: 1/3 in two-point shots and 0/7 in triples. He only grabbed 1 rebound and finished with a PIR of -2 and a -13 with him on court. “It’s the hardest day of my career”he assured as soon as the meeting ended, with all the sincerity of which he was capable. “It is a collective defeat, but without a doubt I played the worst game of the season and at such an important moment. That’s why I assume responsibility and apologize to the fans.”continued.
with this party the old ghost reappeared that haunts him every time a Final Four approaches. A mantra that is repeated over and over again. The one who says that Mirotic does not measure up in the decisive matches. Regarding the Euroleague He has played eight Final Four matches that were eliminatory (semifinals and final). His averages in these matches compared to those he has in his entire continental career are better in points (+1) and in efficiency (+1.9). In the rest of the statistics in which he is supposed to stand out, he has worse numbers. It is especially reflected in their percentages, going down from all distances. In shots of 2 it fell 12.6% (from 59.2 to 46.6), in shots of 3 it fell 6.6% (from 39.9 to 33.3) and in free throws it fell 6.2% ( from 85.1 to 78.9).
If we look game by game there is everything. In his stage in Madrid stood out in the beating of Barça in the semifinals of 2014 (19 points, PIR 27, +23 with him on track), but he did not measure up in the two finals against Olympiacos, in 2013, and Maccabi, in 2014. Between the two he averages -14 on the track. With Barça he had made great games in the semifinalsUntil Friday, of course. In 2021 he scored 21 points for Armani Milan with a PIR of 28. Last year he signed his best match in a Final Four, in semis against Madrid: 26 goals, 4/7 in triples, 100% in free throws, 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, a PIR of 39 and +5 with him on the court for Barça. But the Barcelona team could not defeat the whites and play their second consecutive final after the one in 2021. In that match before the Efes the lazy version of Mirotic appeared againstaying at 11 points in 30 minutes, with 1/5 in shots from three, 7 valuation credits and -11 on the track.
A fact that hurts him especially is the +/- in their eight Final Four games: -4. And that’s counting on the fact that he made that +23 in the 2014 semifinals in which Madrid beat Barça 100-62. “Each opportunity is worth gold and losing another is hard, very hard”, he said on Friday with resignation. Because he knows like the best what it costs to get here and, above all, what it costs to take the last step. So far the Final Four has brought more tears than smiles.