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HOUSTON -- Games like Tuesday night's matchup between the Jazz and Thunder are almost stripped of their relevance when followed by a game like Wednesday's.
The Jazz may have been fatigued from their overtime win in Salt Lake City and a flight arrival of almost 4 a.m. in Houston Wednesday morning, but something should have come together better for the former No. 2 team in the Western Conference as they began what could end up being a long three-game road trip with a 96-113 loss to the Rockets.
"I'm not going to start out and tell them that because we had a tough game (last night) that that's a built-in excuse," said head coach Jerry Sloan in a post-game interview on FSN. "These are younger guys. They have to learn how to experience those things and fight through them - because people don't care what happened to you yesterday."
After one of their strongest starts of the season Tuesday, the Jazz stepped onto the hardwood at the Toyota center Wednesday and delivered one of their weakest. The Jazz ended the first quarter down 11 to the non-playoff contending Rockets, and only deepened their deficit as the game went on as they struggled to find any rhythm on offense - committing an incredible 26 turnovers - and hit a brick wall trying to shut down any facet of Houston's offense.
"We couldn't do anything except turn the ball over," Sloan said. "It was just a long night for us."
"We were searching for our energy and we didn't have it. That's not an excuse but they took it to us," Carlos Boozer said. "We tried to come back but we didn't have the juice to do it."
By the end of the half, the Jazz found themselves with 14 turnovers and a 14-point hole to attempt to dig out of in the third. Despite their disadvantage, there didn't seem to be any urgency for the falling Jazz as Sloan pulled Boozer, Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews off the court for the night before the third quarter ended.
"We couldn't do anything except turn the ball over," Sloan said. "It was just a long night for us, and hopefully it's one we'll forget about quickly."
Utah's defensive struggles only worsened with the starters on the bench, but were highlighted at the three-point line throughout the entire game as the Rockets drained 10-of-19 from beyond the arc. Aaron Brooks dominated Houston's hustle from downtown as he knocked down 5-of-8 for 15 of his 28 points.
"He was sensational. He's been very effective all along because he really pushes the ball, he's a got a big heart to play this game, and he just does nothing but get better," Sloan said of Brooks.
As the Jazz struggled to stop Brooks outside, they also found it impossible to stop Kevin Martin inside the arc. Martin posted 28 for the Rockets, as well, on 9-of-20 shooting.
"(We) have to learn how to experience those things and fight through them - because people don't care what happened to you yesterday," Sloan said.
"Our defense, we couldn't get out there to them on the floor. We just didn't have the ability to be able to get up and guard them," Sloan said. "You can blame it on any number of things, but I think the important thing is that we didn't get the job done."
Utah's loss was worsened by a comeback win from the Nuggets over the Thunder to move the Jazz back to the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference with just three games left in the regular season.