"It was a bad start," said coach Kevin McHale. "[We] came out and had a bad energy level. We just weren't ready to play. They got a big lead and we kind of fought back a few times. ... But they gained a lot of confidence and made some big shots. We could never get our hands back on the game."
The Rockets, who slipped to 13-6 on the season, played without Chandler Parsons (back spasms) and Jeremy Lin (sprained knee).
Parson and Lin combine to average 32.5 points per game, but McHale didn't blame the loss on Houston being short-handed.
"We had plenty of guys to win this game," he said. "It had nothing to do with who wasn't here. It was the guys who were here and how they played. ... [Utah] played better than we did."
Like his coach, Harden blamed the loss on the Rockets' flat-footed first quarter.
"We just didn't defend," he said. "We go through mental lapses where we don't lock down on the defensive end. We give up too many points and then try to fight our way back. ... If we had played any better in the first quarter, different outcome."
Did the Rockets take the Jazz, who entered the game with a 3-15 record, too lightly?
"It's the NBA," said Aaron Brooks. "Everybody can play ... We were [just] fighting uphill the whole game."