January 22 will forever be solidified as one of the best days of basketball in NBA history. On the anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game, Joel Embiid scored a Philadelphia 76ers franchise-record 70 points en route to a victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
Finishing with a stat line of 70 points, 18 rebounds, 5 assists, a steal and a block, Embiid's performance is now the third-highest game score listed on Basketball Reference. As if this wasn't impressive enough, Embiid had just one turnover and only played 36 minutes (the fewest minutes ever in a 70-point outing).
This was Embiid’s third 50-point game of the season, with his last being against the Minnesota Timberwolves in December. After his dominant performance against Minnesota, Embiid spoke to Basketball News about the different energy and effort level he’s bringing this season.
“I’m just pushing myself more, understanding that every possession matters," Embiid said. "It doesn’t matter, I shouldn’t have to wait until the playoffs… [I’m] just trying my best, offensively and defensively.”
This season, he has risen to an otherworldly level of scoring, having the most efficient 35+ point-per-game season ever thus far. As of January 23, Embiid is averaging 36.1 points in just 34.2 minutes. This level of production is just unheard of. The second-closest player in the scoring race is Luka Doncic, who’s averaging 33.6 points. While this is very impressive, he’s doing so in roughly 37 minutes per game. Embiid’s stat line per 36.9 minutes (Doncic’s MPG) would be 38.9 points, 12.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists on 54/36/89 shooting splits.
Perhaps the most wild aspect of Embiid's incredible start to the season is that he has sat out of 11 fourth quarters thus far. This is roughly a third of the games he’s played in this season, yet he's still averaging 36.1 points per game.
In addition to somehow improving as a scorer, Embiid has also developed into a very good playmaker. In his last matchup with Nikola Jokic, Embiid beat him in the assist battle, while still scoring 41 points. All around, Embiid has been the best player in the world this season and it isn’t even a question anymore.
Something that’s gone overlooked is that Embiid has only lost six games this season and has a win percentage of 81.3%, which is higher than that of the Boston Celtics. If Embiid keeps up this level of play (and he hasn't shown any signs of slowing down), this will go down as one of the best individual seasons in the modern NBA.