Not just Allen Iverson returned to the Wachovia Center last night. The 76ers' energy, effort, and enthusiasm did, too.

Unfortunately for the Sixers, victory was not part of that package deal.

In front of a sellout crowd of 20,664, the Sixers were something they've rarely been this season: fun to watch. But the night also ended the way the previous nine had: with a loss.

The Denver Nuggets spoiled Iverson's homecoming, defeating the Sixers, 93-83.

The loss makes 10 in a row for the Sixers. They haven't won since defeating the Charlotte Bobcats on Nov. 18.

The Sixers dropped to 5-16; Denver improved to 16-5.

Iverson, last night's starting point guard, received an ovation fit for a king. And through most of the game it seemed that emotion - and his return - would carry the Sixers to victory.

They could not.

For that you can thank Denver point guard Chauncey Billups, who scored 23 second-half points and finished with 31.

"Chauncey Billups is known for keeping his team mentally in the game," said Sixers swingman Andre Iguodala, who scored 31 points. "And when they got down, he kept them mentally in the game, made some big shots and got them over the hump."

Late in the third, the Sixers were ahead by 65-60; a few minutes into the fourth, they trailed by 77-65.

Denver went on a 17-0 run. Like Iverson, the Sixers ran out of steam.

Iverson played 37 minutes, 34 seconds. He scored 11 points on 4-of-11 shooting. He grabbed five rebounds, dished out six assists. And afterward, he looked ready for a nap.

"I am proud of myself," Iverson said. "I did the best that I could. My heart said yes, but my body said no."

Added Iverson: "I thought I would play maybe five, 10 minutes. I played 37 minutes. I just wanted to be out there. They wanted me out there.

"With the way the guys competed, I don't know how they lost nine games in a row. I couldn't see it with the group I was playing with tonight."

Although it was Iverson's night before tip-off, the first half - and maybe the game - belonged to Iguodala. He started by scoring 18 points in the first half.

"Andre Iguodala is pretty good in that sort of role," said Sixers coach Eddie Jordan. "Sort of playing off of Allen."

"It opens up things for me a little bit more," Iguodala said. "There's not as much focus; I see more openings. It makes it a little bit easier so he brings that whole aura to the game."

Sixers forward Thaddeus Young scored 21 points. Elton Brand and Samuel Dalembert combined for 28 rebounds. But the Sixers' bench finished the night 1 for 15 from the floor, its lone bucket coming from guard Willie Green.

Iverson's return, at least for one night, put a coat of paint over the Sixers' worries: The Nuggets shot 11 for 18 from the three-point line, the Sixers struggled to score, and the defense looked at times nonexistent.

And then there's the loss, tacked to the end of a string before it.

It's just that this one came with Iverson in uniform, a sold-out crowd watching.

Iverson: Then and Now

Stats in his 76ers debut Nov. 1, 1996

MIN   FG   FGA   3FG   3FGA   POINTS   AST   TO   

37   12   19   2   4   30   6   3

Stats in his return to the 76ers last night

MIN   FG   FGA   3FG   3FGA   POINTS   AST   TO

37   4   11   0   0   11   6   1   EndText

Filling the Seats

Last night's attendance: 20,664 (a sellout)

Last 76ers sellout: April 10, 2009, vs. Cavaliers: 20,484.

EndText

Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.