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Reeling Mavs have 'no time for excuses' - Irving

Dallas star Luka Doncic gestures toward referee Eric Dalen in the second half of the Mavericks' NBA loss to the Charlotte Hornets. ©AFP

Los Angeles (AFP) - The Dallas Mavericks' chances of returning to the NBA Western Conference finals look slimmer every day, and recently acquired superstar Kyrie Irving says he and Luka Doncic can't carry them there alone.

An embarrassing 117-108 loss to the injury-hit Charlotte Hornets on Friday dropped the Mavs from ninth to 11th in the Western Conference -- a hair behind Oklahoma City for the final play-in tournament berth.

Coach Jason Kidd blasted his team's first-quarter effort as "awful" and suggested the home crowd boos heard in the third quarter should have come earlier.

"The level wasn't high," Kidd said."It was just disappointing."

It was their seventh defeat in 10 games and just the latest unlikely loss against a team the Mavs were expected to beat handily.

Injuries have played a role, Irving having missed four of the last six and Doncic six of the last seven because of injuries.

But Irving, acquired from Brooklyn shortly before the trade deadline in February, said that with eight games left in the regular season, the Mavs as a whole had to be better.

"I haven't necessarily been as healthy as I would have liked, and other guys haven't been as healthy, including Luka," Irving said."But there's no time for excuses or kind of pointing fingers or any kind of blame game.We just have to get ready."

Slovenian star Doncic spoke of his frustration after the game.

"I think you can see it with me on the court," said the 24-year-old, who was fined $35,000 by the NBA before the game for an "unprofessional gesture" toward a referee in a game on Wednesday.

"Sometimes I don't feel it's me.I'm just being out there.I used to have really fun, smiling on court, but it has just been so frustrating for a lot of reasons, not just basketball."

Doncic declined to elaborate on any off-court issues and Irving said the problem went beyond one or two players.

"As much as people want to put it on me and Luka, it is a team basketball game," Irving said."I feel like when we focus on our team aspect, we get clear answers.But when we focus on two guys and what their numbers are and whether we can play better, it limits all the other guys and their capabilities. 

"I believe in each one of those guys."

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