Joel Embiid scores 70 and Karl-Anthony Towns scores 62. It was a night like few others in the NBA

By Tim Reynolds

Joel Embiid scored 70 in Philadelphia. Karl-Anthony Towns had 62 in Minnesota. They 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.

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 where 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 one another).

Embiid had 34 at halftime, and when he scored five quick points early in the third quarter, 76ers coach Nick Nurse began taking notice.

“I was like, ‘Geez, that’s a lot with a whole half to go. … This’ll probably be a big number tonight,’” 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 76ers team record of 68 points.

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

Embiid became the ninth different 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 evvel.

Embiid got to enjoy his big night since it came in a win. Towns didn’t have that luxury.

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 ever with 10 2-pointers, 10 3-pointers and 10 free throws in a game.

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 for 20 on 2-pointers, 10 for 15 on 3-pointers and 10 for 14 on free throws.

Minnesota coach Chris Finch suggested that Towns’ huge scoring night — he also had a Wolves record of 44 points by halftime — kept his team from being locked in on the task at hand. Minnesota has the best record in the Western Conference, while Charlotte came into the night at 9-31.

“Obviously, we’re going to try to feed a hot hand, look for a hot hand,” Finch said. “But at some point, we’ve got to get back to making the right play, we’ve got to get back to doing the right things.”

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