This one had to hurt.

Up by five points with 3 minutes, 24 seconds left against the road-weary and struggling Denver Nuggets, the 76ers appeared on their way a second victory in three games.

Denver, however, went on a 12-1 run en route to taking a 108-105 victory Saturday afternoon at the Wells Fargo Center.

The loss dropped the Sixers to 1-20. They have blown six fourth-quarter leads in their last seven losses.

"This one definitely hurts like most of them do," Nerlens Noel said. "I think we definitely did have control the whole game. And it's just the last three, four, five minutes that are the most crucial."

Just like in those six previous losses, the Sixers were doomed down the stretch by poor shooting, turnovers, and a nonexistent defense.

After taking the five-point lead on a JaKarr Sampson put-back, the Sixers missed their next five shots and had two costly turnovers. Meanwhile, the Nuggets took their first lead, at 104-102, since the second quarter on Danilo Gallinari's dunk with 47.9 seconds left.

Kenneth Faried sandwiched foul shots around a pair by former Villanova standout Randy Foye to give Denver a 108-102 advantage with 5.8 seconds remaining. Robert Covington made the game appear more respectable with a three-pointer at the buzzer.

However, this was another fourth-quarter collapse for the league's worst team.

"I just felt like when it gets down to that [fourth quarter], and the defense heats up, you know our team isn't designed to have people that can create their own shots," coach Brett Brown said.

The Sixers need to do a better job of setting screens for teammates. They also have to come hard to the ball and can't let defenders bust plays by wedging between them on dribble handoffs.

"We have to get tougher," Brown said. "You have to do all those things that it requires [for you to] create a better lead: Come to the ball, be strong with the ball, go make your hits and defensive rebounding, all those things that good teams have to do to go win a game."

The Sixers were without their leading scorer, Jahlil Okafor. The rookie center was serving the second game of his two-game suspension after a video surfaced Wednesday of his getting into a fight with a heckler on a Boston street in the early hours of Nov. 26.

Even without Okafor, this was a winnable game against a Denver squad (8-13) that had lost eight of its previous nine.

"It's tough, because it's no secret that we keep losing the same way," Sampson said. "Down the stretch teams crawl up into us, and we turn the ball over.

"We are not smart with the ball, and they just go to another gear. So it's tough."

Gallinari led all scorers with 24 points, while Will Barton added 16 points. Former St. Joseph's standout Jameer Nelson scored four of his 10 points during the Nuggets' decisive 12-1 run.

Covington paced the Sixers with 18 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. Isaiah Canaan added 15 points while making 5 of 8 three-pointers. In all, the Sixers had seven double-figure scorers.

Tony Wroten finished with four points on 2-for-7 shooting to go with three assists and five turnovers in 13:02. This was his first action since Jan. 13 because of a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

The Sixers made 15 of 31 threes for the game.

@PompeyOnSixers