Twice with the game on the line, the Rockets called time out to set up a play they had to have and twice they need not have bothered.

James Harden knew what Kevin McHale would want run. McHale knew what Harden wanted.

The Rockets don’t run it as often as they did last season, now choosing to save the simple maneuver for late-game situations, but Harden still likes to set a screen for Jeremy Lin to see if opponents switch. The Pelicans did and Harden went to work.

With a game on the line that had so often seemed on the brink of another bad loss, the Rockets screened and then rolled to a 103-100 comeback win on Wednesday, changing their defense on one end and then calling Harden’s favorite game-closing play on the other.

“I’m OK if you use that term,” Lin said of the Rockets stealing a win in a game they led for just 74 seconds. “That’s exactly how we feel.”

“Straight up theft,” Chandler Parsons chimed in.

Down the stretch, however, the Rockets got the stops they could not through most of the night, taking Eric Gordon out of the New Orleans offense to put Harden in range to swipe the win in the final minutes.

“He’s our closer,” McHale said. “He did what closers do. He closed and we needed it.”

First the Hornets’ 6-1 Brian Roberts switched onto Harden and was forced to foul. Harden made two free throws and the Rockets had their first lead since they were up 9-8 four minutes into the game. Next it was Austin Rivers’ turn. He switched. Harden lost him with a jab step and nailed 22-foot step back jumper.

“We drew up a play. We executed it well,” Harden said. “We run that play a lot, especially late in the game. They switched it and Jeremy gave it back to me. Teams don’t know how to guard it. It worked.”

After Anthony Davis tied the game with a free throw with 47 seconds left, New Orleans coach put Rivers back in the game on Lin. The screen took Gordon off Harden and he went to work.