HOUSTON — The Utah Jazz left their moral victory behind in Oklahoma City. They left their winning ways behind in New Orleans.
And their defense? Who knows?
The fact Utah's D was nowhere to be found in the Toyota Center led to the Jazz leaving Space City behind them with a second straight setback and another subpar road trip.
In their worst defensive showing of the season, Utah simply couldn’t keep up with high-powered Houston during Saturday's 124-116 loss.
"Any loss is a disappointing loss," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said a night after Utah had a glass-half-full attitude following its competitive loss to the Thunder.
A squandered comeback (again), three 20-point outings by Al Jefferson, Randy Foye and Gordon Hayward, a solid showing by Alec Burks and Utah's first 50-percent shooting night of the season added to the disappointment caused by dismal defense.
"We were in it," Hayward said, "and I don't think nobody is satisfied with that and not being able to win on the road."
For those keeping track at home (where Utah is 6-0, by the way), the Jazz fell to 3-9 away from the building they're calling "The Solution" and 9-9 overall.
Utah rallied out of one 10-point second-half deficit and took a brief three-point lead early in the fourth quarter after Hayward hammered home an alley-oop pass from Earl Watson.
The Jazz then found themselves in another 10-point deficit after Houston took advantage of Utah's second unit, only to crawl back into the game once again. Mo Williams tied it at 109-all with a jumper with 4:20 remaining, but the Rockets ripped off seven straight points to give themselves enough of a cushion.
"Yeah, I definitely think we had an opportunity to win the game," Hayward said. "Down the stretch, we've got to be able to execute plays and get good shots, get some stops obviously, so we can win the ballgame."
By the time they finally stopped blistering the nets, the Rockets had shot a season-best 55.4 percent, poured in a season-high 39 fourth-quarter points and drilled 11-of-22 3-pointers.
Seven Rockets (8-8) scored in double figures, including all five starters, with Patrick Patterson leading the way with 20 points and helping Houston snap a three-game losing streak to Utah. Jeremy Lin contributed 19 points and eight assists, while James Harden added 18 points and seven assists to make up for five turnovers.
"Usually, that's something that all of us from top to bottom take pride in — getting stops — and tonight we didn’t do it," Foye said. "Top to bottom, we didn't get the job done on defense."
The Rockets' hot hands spoiled a night in which the Jazz actually got off to a good start — offensively, at least. But Houston was shooting 72 percent well into the second quarter before settling for its best shooting half of the season, 59 percent, and a 58-49 halftime lead after Utah had an early nine-point advantage.
"Utah is a real physical team," Houston fill-in coach Kelvin Sampson said. "I think it took us awhile ... to get a feel for them."
Once Houston got rolling, the balanced team didn't stop. The Rockets beat the Jazz in the paint (62 points to 54) and on fast-break points (22-8). Both teams hit 11 treys, but the home team ended up with a decisive edge at the free-throw line, making 21-of-26 freebies compared to a 9-for-11 night from the charity stripe for Utah.
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