When the Jazz were at their lowest this season, they found answers. When they were nine games below .500, when they had to beat out the competition in the West to make the playoffs, when they had to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round — Utah has answered every challenge.

Except against the Houston Rockets.

It’s a puzzle that appears to have no solution in the wake of Sunday’s 100-87 loss in Game 4 to the West’s top seed. While playing tough, there was no winning formula that emerged as Houston took a commanding 3-1 lead in the Western Conference semifinals. With Dante Exum limping out in the third quarter and Ricky Rubio again sidelined, the Jazz are missing pieces that might’ve helped them break through.

As the Jazz players rattled off familiar sayings about making adjustments and using their time wisely before Game 5 on Tuesday night in Houston, the responses had an empty quality to them. It wasn’t the blowout they suffered in Game 3, but even when raising their intensity on their home court, the Jazz still didn’t have enough.

“Today was tough, just to get off and generate a lot of offense to go our way,” Jae Crowder said. “We went on runs the few times we did, but we couldn’t sustain it.”

The Jazz’s last gasp came midway through the fourth quarter as rookie Donovan Mitchell brought the game within five points at the free throw line. As they have often in this series, the Rockets countered: A Clint Capela jumper, three Utah misses, then a Trevor Ariza 3-pointer.

Excelling in his role as the heel of booing Utah fans, Chris Paul made a pullup jumper — his weapon of choice against Rudy Gobert all series — with four minutes to go for the last of his 27 points, extending Houston’s lead to 12. The Jazz never closed the margin to single digits again.

It was the closest Utah would get to winning on its home floor, and perhaps the closest it will get to winning what was already considered a tough series.

Utah coach Quin Snyder has repeated throughout the week that the Jazz have a razor-thin margin for error. On Sunday, he measured that error with the 22 shots Utah missed at the rim.

“I don’t think we were pressing,” Snyder said of the offense in the fourth quarter, during which the team shot 8 for 23. “I think we were in the moment, competing, in the game. We just missed.”

There were precious few scoring outlets for the Jazz, who were paced by a bounce-back game from Mitchell with 25 points. After a quiet Game 3, he announced his presence in the second quarter of Game 4 with a 13-point fury. He was aided by Exum, who had 9 points in the first quarter while playing chippy defense on James Harden.

But the Jazz lost what could’ve been a big component of any comeback when Exum went down midway through the third quarter. While Utah later called the injury hamstring soreness, his limping exit robbed the Jazz of their most successful rim attacker to that point.

“He’s been attacking,” Mitchell said. “We fed off his energy in the first half. … It was tough to see.”

Both teams couldn’t find their range on 3-pointers, shooting under 27 percent combined for the game. But only the Rockets found an antidote: a robust mid-range game led by Paul. With Harden going an iffy 8 for 22 for his 24 points, Paul was 12 for 23.

In addition to Capela’s 12-point, 15-rebound double-double, it was more than enough for the Rockets to edge one game from advancing to the Western Conference Finals. And Harden and Paul, who both share a pedestrian postseason resume, seemed only more sharply determined to close out.

“We didn’t come this far just to be up 3-1 in the semifinals,” Harden said. “We’ve got a long way to go.”

For the Jazz, defeat was accompanied by realization that they may have played their final game at Vivint Smart Home Arena this season, a place where they dominated Oklahoma City, but have looked helpless against Houston since the season began. In eight total meetings this season, the Rockets are 7-1, with every victory by double digits.

But the sellout crowd — even the fans heading up the stairwells to the exits — valiantly applauded Mitchell after he fouled out with 52 seconds left.

Snyder held the same sentiment, for Mitchell and his team.

“That game could’ve easily been a blowout,” he said. “The fact that our team was able to cut it the way they did says a lot about who they are.”

They’re tough. Just not better than the Rockets.