Rashard Lewis could see the determination on Dwight Howard's face.
A game after getting called out by his coach for focusing too much on offense, Howard had 24 rebounds and 23 points. Lewis added 25 points and the Orlando Magic beat the Denver Nuggets 109-98 Wednesday night.
"(Howard) was real serious about coming out and trying to get this win before the All-Star break, and just trying to knock that chip off his shoulder," Lewis said. "That's what professional basketball players do."
Carmelo Anthony had 32 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter, and Allen Iverson had 21 points and seven assists.
Howard also retook the NBA rebounding lead from Anthony's team' Marcus Camby, a game after losing it. The All-Star center dropped to second-place when he failed to get double-digit rebounds in two of the past four games. But on Wednesday he had a double-double by halftime, while Camby finished with six points and eight rebounds.
It was Howard's sixth 20-point, 20-rebound game of the season.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy was thrilled with the effort, though he said the conflict between he and Howard "may've been a little overblown."
"We've seen games like this out of him before," Van Gundy said. "It's not like Stan Van Gundy's a motivational genius and got Dwight to play. He's played like this several times in his career - he just needed to get his focus back. He wanted to win today; he was fabulous."
Howard, just a few days from his first All-Star start, didn't mind the challenge.
"Knowing Stan, the main thing is that he's not going to let me be mediocre," Howard said. "He's going to continue to push me every day in practice, every game, to get better. I don't fault Stan for what he did; he just wants to see the best out of me."
Neither team could create much separation until the third quarter. Anthony's team took a 63-58 lead, tying its biggest of the game, on Camby's jumper with six minutes left in the period.
But Lewis led Howard's team on an 18-6 run to close the third, and Howard's team never trailed again. The forward had 14 in the quarter - including two 3-pointers and a driving dunk down the baseline past two defenders.
Anthony's team was playing for a second straight night, after beating Miami 114-113 Tuesday night.
"We're not going to use that as an excuse," Iverson said. "We had enough energy, we just didn't get it done. They played better than us."
Howard's team lead ballooned to 15 in the fourth, but never felt out of reach. J.R. Smith hit four 3-pointers, and Iverson reinvigorated a Anthony's team dribble attack that Howard's team couldn't stop in the first quarter.
But Howard's team held off Anthony's team, with Hedo Turkoglu's help. The forward missed most of the third quarter in foul trouble, but scored 12 of his 18 points in the final period.
"Give Howard's team credit - they played with a killer instinct and a demand that this was an important game to them," Nuggets coach George Karl said.
Brian Cook had 18 points for Howard's team, while Jameer Nelson scored 13.
Kenyon Martin had 17 points and nine rebounds for Anthony's team, and Smith finished with 16 points.
Howard's team closed a five-game home stretch before the All-Star game 2-3. Anthony's team had won four straight on the road, and three in a row overall.