We knew coming in how important this game was. We played like we didn't want it. We made silly turnovers. We didn't block out, gave them a couple of chances at the basket. We just didn't do a good job tonight. —Al Jefferson
HOUSTON — The Utah Jazz should bottle whatever it is they do on the road and sell it as makeup remover.
It doesn't help them win, but, heck, they could make a fortune off of it.
Once again, the Jazz left the Beehive State only to have all of their flaws, pockmarks and blemishes exposed.
Tears weren't shed during a 101-85 loss to the Houston Rockets, but the mascara they use for a pick-and-roll defense was running all over the place after Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola got through with them.
The Jazz couldn't cover up their lack of outside shooting, inconsistent offensive execution and costly mental lapses, either.
"I'm disappointed in ourself," Jazz center Al Jefferson said. "We knew coming in how important this game was. We played like we didn't want it. We made silly turnovers. We didn't block out, gave them a couple of chances at the basket. We just didn't do a good job tonight."
Lowry became the latest in an ever-growing line of point guards to torch the Jazz, exploiting soft spots in Utah's rotations early and taking advantage of even bigger weaknesses in the visitors' pick-and-roll D late.
The quick playmaker scored 32 points, buried seven 3-pointers and fueled a game-ending 21-7 Houston surge that left the Jazz's glaring defensive deficiencies out in the open for all to see.
"It's a mystery," Jazz guard Raja Bell said of Utah's late-game meltdown. "We've go to figure that out."
Lowry was one guy they couldn't figure out, which left point-guard Earl Watson fuming after the Jazz's third road loss in a row left Utah at 15-15 overall and 3-10 away from home.
"We do a pretty good job of taking care of our home business," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "But you've got to win games on the road to end up having a chance to be in the mix in the end of the season for the playoff run. We've got to get it figured out."
Especially the tendency for opposing pick-and-rolls to so effectively dissect Utah's pick-and-roll defense.
Not only did Lowry score a lot of points — a la Russell Westbrook, Darren Collison, Jeremy Lin, etc. — but the speedy six-footer also dished out nine assists.
"We haven't figured out pick-and-roll coverage yet," a ticked-off Watson said. "It's to a point where I'm fed up with point guards having 20-plus points every night."
While Lowry did most of his damage from afar, Scola also lit up the Jazz for 26 points and nine rebounds to help the Rockets improve to 18-14.
That helped Houston absorb strong outings from Jazz bigs Al Jefferson (23 points, 11 rebounds) and Paul Millsap (22 points). Problem is, Bell had 11 points and he was the only other Jazz player to reach double digits during a 39.5 percent shooting night.
The bench only contributed 16 points, Devin Harris had just nine points and four assists and Gordon Hayward added four points and four assists.
Corbin pointed out that it's "a lot mental" for NBA players to learn how to thrive on the road, and that's a steep learning curve the Jazz, especially the youngsters, are dealing with right now.
"Everything's against you. You don't have the crowd to lift you up," Corbin said. "You have your teammates out there, but you have the tendency to drop your head a little bit. . . . It seems like a high hurdle to cross, but you've got to fight and figure it out and you're not going to do it if you quit."
The Jazz beat Washington 114-100 at home Friday, and hoped to build on that success on a one-game road jaunt.
For a half Sunday, they did.
Utah led by one at halftime, but the Rockets outscored them by nine in the third quarter and built a 13-point lead early in the fourth.
The Jazz went on an 11-0 run to pull within two midway through the final period,
Following the theme of the night, it was Lowry — who else? — who got the Rockets back on track. After a timeout, he hit a 3-pointer — what else? — to spark a game-clinching 12-2 run.
So close, yet . . .
"We're growing a little bit, but we've got to be able to finish games on the road," Corbin added. "We're right in there. That fourth quarter, we've got to make sure we do the right things then to give ourselves a chance to win."
And that, the Jazz will tell you to a man, starts on the defensive end.
"If we don't get any stops," Watson said, "we always struggle to score."
That's something Lowry (9-for-13 shooting and 7-for-8 from deep) had no problem doing.
"When you get a guy like him going," Jefferson said, "it can feel like he untouchable. He hit everything."