DENVER - Of late, the schedule has broken nicely for the 76ers. And they're taking advantage.

On Sunday night, the Denver Nuggets were playing the second of back-to-back games and without superstar forward Carmelo Anthony. These were the watered-down Nuggets, receiving only limited minutes from forwards Kenyon Martin and Chris "Birdman" Andersen.

The Sixers defeated Denver, 95-89, coming back from a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

The Sixers improved to 12-18. The Nuggets, led by Chauncey Billups' 24 points, dropped to 16-13.

A week ago, the Sixers happened to play Orlando on the day the Magic had traded a third of their roster. On Sunday, the Sixers caught the Nuggets without Anthony, who missed his third consecutive game after his sister's death.

The Sixers sealed the victory on a three-pointer by Jodie Meeks with 47.1 seconds left, which boosted their lead to 92-86.

Forward Thaddeus Young scored 20 points on 10-for-18 shooting for the winners. Jrue Holiday scored 22 points on 8-for-12 shooting, and Elton Brand had 16 points and 17 rebounds.

On most nights, Sixers coach Doug Collins has no idea where his team's scoring will come from. Or if any scoring will come at all.

That was probably on Collins' mind in the first quarter, when the Sixers were 6 for 26 from the field. With 3 minutes, 5 seconds left in the first, they had scored just nine points and trailed by nine.

By the end of the quarter, the Sixers were down, 25-13, and it looked as if things might get worse. Without Lou Williams, who stayed in Philadelphia for the birth of his daughter, there really wasn't an offensive spark plug available on the bench.

But in the second quarter, the Sixers found some scoring - and a little defense as well.

At the start of the period, Young and Brand were a combined 2 for 7 from the floor. Brand was having difficulty scoring on Martin, and Young hadn't quite found a rhythm in his few minutes.

By the end of the quarter, Young and Brand were a combined 9 for 17 with 18 points between them. Brand managed a few deep-post, fadeaway jumpers against the Nuggets' second-string defenders, and Young powered down two slams in transition.

Sixers rookie Evan Turner had a similarly paced first half, finishing the first quarter 0 for 2 but going 4 for 8 in the second quarter for eight points.

In that second quarter, the Sixers scored 30 points and had many Nuggets fans groaning. After smiling through an easy first quarter, the Pepsi Center crowd watched as the Nuggets went 7 for 20 in the second period and managed only a slim 46-43 halftime lead.

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