Allen Iverson returned to the Wachovia Center tonight, and so did the 76ers' energy, effort, and enthusiasm.
Although it still wasn't enough to break their losing streak, the Sixers were something they've been only rarely this season: fun to watch.
The on-court product was prettier, but the Sixers lost to the Denver Nuggets, 93-83.
And despite a sellout crowd of 20,664, and despite the return of their former franchise player, that losing streak reached 10 games.
The Sixers dropped to 5-16; the Nuggets improved to 16-5.
Iverson, the starting point guard, received an ovation fit for a king. Through nearly three quarters, it seemed that emotion - and his return - would carry the Sixers to victory.
At one point late in the third, the Sixers were ahead by 65-60. A few minutes into the fourth, they trailed by 77-65.
You can thank Chauncey Billups, the Nuggets point guard who finished with 31 points.
The Sixers were led by swingman Andre Iguodala with 31 points. Forward Thaddeus Young scored 21.
Iverson played 37 minutes, scoring 11 points on 4-for-11 shooting from the field. He also had five rebounds and six assists.
For the Sixers, things started loud before tip-off and stayed hot afterward. They stayed hot, mostly, because of Iguodala, who in the first quarter made 5 of 7 field goals, 2 of 2 three-pointers, and 2 of 2 free throws.
Iguodala finished the first quarter with 14 points; the Sixers led by 26-20.
Because of Iverson, slowed by his monthlong absence from the game, the Sixers played a matchup zone for patches of the first half. A combination of effort - starting center Samuel Dalembert had six blocks in the first half - and poor shooting by Denver left the Nuggets with 20 points after the first quarter and 41 points at halftime.
The Sixers led, 44-41, at the break.
The Nuggets made 31.0 percent of their shots in the first half, with their main guys, Carmelo Anthony and Billups, combining for 18 points on 5-for-18 shooting.
Although it was Iverson's night, it was Iguodala who rarely missed. He finished the half with 18 points and was a split second from an additional three-pointer.
How good was Iguodala's first half?
With only 0.2 seconds remaining on the clock, knowing no shot would count, Iguodala caught an inbounds pass about 90 feet from the basket, wound the ball back like a baseball, and launched a 90-foot shot. It went through the net without hitting the backboard.
Although it didn't count, it made clear that tonight, Iguodala could score from anywhere. He finished the half shooting 7 for 10 from the floor, 2 for 3 from the three-point line.
Iverson scored six points in the first half on 3-for-6 shooting, with four rebounds and three assists. No moment was more typical Iverson than the Sixers' final possession of the first half. Iverson took the ball at the top of the key as his teammates cleared out. He dribbled to near the right elbow, lifted up, and splashed a midrange jumper with 2.8 seconds left.
Like it did many times tonight, the Wachovia Center crowd erupted.