Joel Embiid sets franchise record with 70 points in 76ers' win over Spurs
Joel Embiid put on a performance for the ages — and thought it could've been even better.
Embiid scored a franchise-record 70 points, the most in the NBA this season, to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 133-123 victory over the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night.
He was 24 of 41 from the field, including 1 of 2 from 3-point range, and made 21 of 23 free throws. Embiid also set a career high with 18 rebounds. He broke Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain’s 76ers record of 68 points, set on Dec. 16, 1967, with a layup with 1:41 to play.
“I was actually mad at myself because I missed a lot of easy shots that I’ve been making all season,” he said.
Chamberlain was playing for the Philadelphia Warriors when he set the NBA record with 100 points.
“Obviously, Wilt accomplished a lot of things,” Embiid said. “To be in the same conversation is pretty cool. It was just a great night. Had it going. They just kept giving me the ball and I just finished it.”
A six-time All-Star and the league’s reigning MVP, Embiid has scored at least 30 points in 21 consecutive games. The 76ers have won six in a row.
“The only thing I told my teammates was, 'Please don’t force it,'” he said. “Let’s just play basketball. We were just trying to play the right way.”
Rookie Victor Wembanyama had 33 points and seven rebounds in 29 minutes in the first matchup between the 7-footers. The rebuilding Spurs fell to 5-19 on the road.
“It would have been more fun in a win, of course, but it’s inspiring, especially offensively,” Wembanyama said of playing against Embiid.
Embiid had tied his career high of 59 points through three quarters and re-entered the contest with 6:38 left and Philadelphia ahead 118-104. With the record in sight, the 76ers were feeding him the ball at every opportunity.
“The game was still pretty close,” Embiid said. “Felt like I needed to go back in. Once I got back in, I was like, ‘There’s my chance. Might as well go and do it.’”
Philadelphia first-year coach Nick Nurse marveled at Embiid's performance.
“Obviously he can score in so many ways, just his sheer size gets him a lot of stuff around the basket, gets him a lot of free throws,” Nurse said. “The shooting touch is the skill part. The way he moves, the skill he has, the size he is, and he gets motivated like that, anything can happen I guess.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo had the previous high game in the NBA this season with 64 points.
Embiid embraced former 76ers coach Brett Brown, now a Spurs assistant, after the game and later praised him.
“He’s done a lot not just for me but for the whole city of Philadelphia," Embiid said. “I’m kind of glad I did it in front of him so he can kind of see the product of what he created.”
All eyes were on Embiid and Wembanyama from even before the first tip when fans lined the court to watch the Spurs’ French phenom in warmups. The home fans already know what Embiid can do, and Philadelphia’s star might have wanted to make sure they didn’t forget.
“It will be interesting for all of us to see for the first time,” Nurse said before the game.
Electrifying might have been a better adjective.
Embiid hit a 13-footer over Wembanyama 1:11 into the contest. The Spurs rookie responded impressively, with a pair of 3-pointers within 27 seconds of each other, and then finished an alley-oop dunk before heading to the bench with 6:27 left in the first due to two fouls.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich joked before the game that the Spurs' plan against Embiid was to "hammer his (butt). I told Wemby to back him down over the rim and just throw him through the rim.”
But it was clear from the start that nothing was going to work. Embiid had 24 points on 8-for-12 shooting in the first quarter.
Embiid was impressed with Wembanyama.
“He’s great, man,” Embiid said. “He’s got everything, size, skill, got everything. Bright future. He’s already pretty good. Once he develops, he’s going to be a lot of problems for a lot of guys in this league.”
Embiid hopes it's after he retires.
“Hopefully when I don’t have to guard him and I’m out of the league, hopefully he can break all these records,” he said.