Spurs 76ers Basketball

Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, right, reacts during the second half of Monday’s game against the San Antonio Spurs. Embiid finished with 70 points. Matt Slocum/Associated Press

Joel Embiid scored 70 in Philadelphia. Karl-Anthony Towns had 62 in Minnesota. The elite big men paired up to do something the NBA hadn’t seen on the same day in more than 45 years.

So mark it down: Jan. 22, 2024, was a day unlike almost any other in NBA history.

On the 18th anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game for the Los Angeles Lakers – the second-best scoring game in NBA history – Embiid and Towns put on a pair of dazzling, historic scoring shows of their own with a pair of career-high, franchise-record efforts.

“From the time I started playing, Kobe was my guy,” Embiid said. “He’s the reason why I started playing basketball. It’s funny, on the same night, he got 81 and that was my favorite player.”

Hornets Timberwolves Basketball

Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns goes up to shoot Monday against the Charlotte Hornets. Towns scored a franchise-high 62 points. Abbie Parr/Associated Press

Embiid’s 70 points set the 76ers record in Philadelphia’s 133-123 win over San Antonio. Towns scored 62 points – two more than his previous career best and Wolves record – but it wasn’t enough in Minnesota’s 128-125 loss to Charlotte.

Add it all up, and Monday was the fourth day in NBA history when two players scored at least 60 points. The others were April 9, 1978, (David Thompson had 73 for Denver, George Gervin had 63 for San Antonio as they dueled on the season’s final day for the scoring title); Jan. 17, 1962, (Jerry West scored 63 for the Lakers, Wilt Chamberlain scored 62 for the Philadelphia Warriors); and Dec. 8, 1961 (Chamberlain had 78 for the Warriors and Elgin Baylor had 63 for the Lakers in a triple-overtime game against each other).

Advertisement

“These boys tonight going CRAZY!!” career scoring leader LeBron James posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Added Phoenix star Kevin Durant, who had 43 in the Suns’ 115-113 win Monday over Chicago: “I mean, the skill level in this league is insane, and actually the coaching and the schemes on offense is insane. You’re seeing so many different sets being run for bigs to get 3s. Coaches are being way more creative to put their best players in great positions to get those numbers.”

Victor Wembanyama – the 7-foot-3 rookie – had 33 points for San Antonio, and even he was no match for Philly’s big man, reigning NBA MVP and two-time defending scoring champion. Embiid had 34 at halftime, and when he scored five quick points early in the third quarter, Coach Nick Nurse began taking notice.

“I was like, ‘Geez, that’s a lot with a whole half to go. … This will probably be a big number,’ ” Nurse said.

A real, real, real big number. Embiid’s 70-point night tied the 12th-biggest scoring effort in NBA history, and broke Chamberlain’s team record of 68.

“To be in the same conversation, that’s pretty cool,” Embiid said.

Advertisement

Chamberlain was playing for the Philadelphia Warriors when he set the NBA record with 100 points.

“He’s a fantastic player,” Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said of Embiid. “Obviously in the running for MVP. That’s for sure. But everybody already knew that.”

Embiid became the ninth player with a 70-point game: Chamberlain did it six times, and everyone else on the list – Baylor, Thompson, David Robinson, Bryant, Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell, Damian Lillard and now Embiid – has done it once.

Embiid got to enjoy his big night since it came in a win. Towns – who had 44 points at halftime – didn’t have that luxury with the Wolves falling.

“We’ve got to find a way to win,” said Towns, adding that he didn’t see any silver lining even after scoring 62. “It’s about winning the game.”

It was only the second time since 1993 that a player scored at least 62 points in a loss; Booker had 70 in a Phoenix loss at Boston in 2017. That said, Towns also had a game unlike any other in NBA history – the first player with 10 2-pointers, 10 3-pointers and 10 free throws in a game.

Advertisement

“What is it, 15 of us in here?” said Wolves guard Anthony Edwards, who acknowledged that he stopped looking for his shot with hopes Towns would score even more. “Fourteen of us wanted to see him get 80. … Congratulations to Big KAT, a one-of-a-kind performance.”

Lillard had at least nine of each type of basket on three occasions. James Harden had nine 1s, 2s and 3s on two occasions. Towns is the first with a triple-double of basket types; he was 11 of 20 on 2-pointers, 10 of 15 on 3-pointers and 10 of 14 on free throws.

Embiid was a mere 1 of 2 on 3-pointers Monday.

“I was actually surprised he didn’t beat me,” Embiid said of Towns. “I heard he had like 45 at halftime. … He obviously did it in a different way. I had one 3 and he had 10 of them. That’s amazing.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.