Milwaukee Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin and veteran forward Bobby Portis declined to elaborate on the report from Chris Haynes that Portis called out Griffin and his teammates following the Bucks' 128-119 loss to the Indiana Pacers in the semifinals of the In-Season Tournament.
"I won't comment on what was reported," Griffin said. "Like I said, we're a passionate group, we hate to lose. We're a together group. I love coaching this group. We got nothing but winners and high character guys and whatever internal dialouge happens in our locker room stays in our locker room."
"Don't want to speak too much about what's happening in our locker room," Portis added. "What happens in our locker room is sacred between us. That's how it's always been, don't know how it got reported, but at the same time, I'm just a competitor. I love to compete... I'm here for all the right reasons."
Per Haynes, Portis was upset about the lack of organization down the stretch against the Pacers, as the Bucks were outscored 15-7 over the final 2:40, and said that while the team has to execute better, the coaching staff has to put them in a position to succeed. Griffin was receptive to the criticism and acknowledged he has to be better.
The lack of a cohesive plan was particularly notable on a Khris Middleton turnover with just over two minutes to play. Middleton brought the ball up the floor instead of Damian Lillard, then dribbled around aimlessly for five seconds before trying to force a pass to Lillard that was picked off. The Pacers missed the initial layup but converted the put-back to go up by five.
Milwaukee's offense down the stretch in games has generally been excellent this season. Their nine "clutch" wins -- defined as the score being within five points with five or fewer minutes remaining -- are tied for the most in the league, they boast the third-best clutch offensive rating (125) and Lillard leads all players with 69 clutch points.
However, this isn't the first time there's been signs of potential trouble. After their win over the Miami Heat late last month, Griffin revealed that Giannis Antetokounmpo changed a play he drew up in the huddle to get Middleton involved. Then there was the overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls last week when Antetokounmpo lamented their tendency to rely on their talent.
Antetokounmpo's comments after this loss were his strongest yet on the subject:
"We have to be more organized. We have to know what we are trying to get down the stretch. You know, at the end of the day, like down the stretch, it's about effort, man. It's about effort and attitude, you have to go out there and take it. I feel like the Indiana team, that's what they did. They crashed the board, got defensive rebounds. You know they got to their spots. They played great defense. You know, got deflections. Like at the end of the day, like nothing is going to be given to you in life. Nothing is going to be given to you in an NBA game, and we cannot just expect that to be, we run a play and because we run the play, we are going to score a bucket. Like you've got to execute. You've got to cut hard, screen harder, get open, drive the ball, you know, make something happen.
"You know, we've done that in the past. Today I don't think we did it as well. But at the end of the day, like we have to be better down the stretch. Like we've got to know what we're trying to accomplish down the stretch. I feel like sometimes we weren't on the same page, and it cost us."
Lillard, likewise, admitted they weren't on the same page:
"The play with Khris, he got the ball on the inbound and I was just running up the opposite slot, and you know, we didn't really have a play call, you know, so I was standing opposite him and I didn't know if he was going to attack or what."
Portis, who has been a key player for the Bucks over the past three-plus seasons, only played 18 minutes in the defeat -- his second-fewest of the season -- which likely contributed to his frustration. He finished with four points and six rebounds.