But the upset was avoided once Sixers starters Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Thad Young reentered the game with 6 minutes, 52 seconds remaining and the score tied at 62-62.
"They just started knocking down shot after shot, stayed very poised, and made the right plays," Young said of Denver's going on a decisive 15-2 run. "They had two very good point guards in Nate Robinson and Andre Miller. And they pretty much controlled the game from that point on."
Actually, Jordan Hamilton provided most of the Nuggets' late-game heroics. The reserve forward hit three consecutive three-pointers to put his team ahead, 99-88, with 3:22 left.
Hamilton finished with 13 points on 4-for-5 shooting (3 for 3 on three-pointers) to go with five rebounds and two steals in 22 minutes.
Robinson, also a reserve, led the Nuggets with 20 points to go with three assists.
His cousin, Tony Wroten, led the Sixers with 20 points while playing in place of rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams for the second consecutive night.
Carter-Williams spent his third night at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with an infection and soreness involving his right knee.
Young added 14 points and seven rebounds, two assists, and a blocked shot while playing with left- glute muscle pain.
Turner, however, had his second-lowest-scoring output of the season. The Sixers swingman was held to six points on 3-for-12 shooting. Not drawing fouls, Turner didn't attempt a single foul shot. He did, however, finish with a team-high five assists and two steals.
The Sixers stayed in the game in part because of their reserves.
Brown decided to manage his starters' minutes on what was the second day of a home-and-away back-to-back. As a result, the Sixers opened the fourth quarter with reserves Daniel Orton, Elliot Williams, Lorenzo Brown, and Brandon Davies on the floor with starter Hollis Thompson.
The lineup went toe-to-toe with the Nuggets. Thompson hit a three-pointer to knot the score at 86-86 with 7:18 left.
"So we bought some time," Sixers coach Brett Brown said. "Then our starters came back in. But Denver jumped us and the game turned."
The teams played through 11 lead changes and 12 ties before the Nuggets' decisive run gave them the 101-88 advantage with 1:47 left.