It’s a long way to the top. And in two games against one of the NBA’s hottest teams, the Utah Jazz haven’t been close.

Take two against the Houston Rockets wasn’t the same as the last, but it produced a similar result: The Jazz took a thrashing. But whereas last time the Rockets poured on the most points any opponent has all season, this time it was Houston’s defense that vexed the Jazz in a 112-101 loss at Vivint Smart Home Arena on Thursday night.

Sure: James Harden (29 points), Chris Paul (18 points, 13 assists, nine rebounds) and their friends were great. But the Jazz offense, which has been raging over foes for the past two weeks, took a step back in the team’s second straight loss.

“They try to steal the ball and jack you up — that’s what they do,” Rudy Gobert said. “There’s some things we need to avoid. We need to be more in attack mode.”

The Donovan Mitchell bandwagon rolled over a speedbump, as the rookie had his worst shooting game since Nov. 28. Shadowed by Trevor Ariza, who denied him the ball and deflected his passes, Mitchell managed 26 points on 19 shots — the latest step in his ascendant rookie season which has seen him become the Jazz’s most dynamic offensive weapon.

He wasn’t the biggest problem with Utah’s sputtering offense: The Jazz had another weak night by their starting bigs. Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors combined for 11 points on 4-for-9 shooting. They were outrebounded (46 to 32), and the Rockets’ 18 team 3s stretched them out to the perimeter

It wasn’t until the third quarter that the Rockets gained separation. Leading by five points at halftime, they kicked off with a furious rally sparked by Harden and Ryan Anderson. The duo shot five 3-pointers between them in the first five minutes of the half.

With seven minutes left in the third quarter, Houston had scored 21 points on 10 possessions and led by 19. The Rockets would carry a double-digit lead for the rest of the game.

“When they have four shooters out there, you’re going to come off somebody and leave somebody open for a three,” Jazz coach Quin Snyder said. “We didn’t do a good job even containing the ball.”

The Beard was in his regular form, driving past the Jazz defenders on the perimeter and getting to the free-throw line (9 of 9) while leading Houston’s eighth straight win.

Aside from Harden, the Jazz also had trouble keeping in front of Anderson, who sunk his first eight shots after leaving Sunday’s game with back tightness. He was only one point off his season high, scoring 23 points, including five 3s.

This meeting started out chippier than the last, with the whistles blowing early. Harden was issued a technical foul for verbal sparring with Joe Ingles, and both teams had 10 fouls by halftime.

But behind a first-half stint from Paul, the Rockets started picking up steam. A problem for the Jazz in last year’s playoffs while with the L.A. Clippers, Paul darted in and out of the paint for midrange shots and kickout passes. While the Jazz took a 36-34 lead briefly in the second quarter, Harden helped lead a 10-0 run before halftime.

It was Utah’s first home loss in six games. The Jazz returned to .500 after a surge to end November that moved them up in the Western Conference standings.

Heading into a six-game road trip starting Saturday, it only gets tougher.

“It was definitely a good reminder,” Mitchell said. “It’s easy when you go on certain streaks to go out there and go, ‘We got this,’ and be happy with it. This was definitely a good reminder game and we’ve definitely got a tough schedule coming up, so it was good to get it at the beginning of the month.”