After Joel Embiid’s 70-point night, ranking NBA’s high-scoring performances by efficiency



In front of home fans at Wells Fargo Center, Joel Embiid soared into NBA history Monday night, scoring 70 points as the Philadelphia 76ers beat Victor Wembanyama and the San Antonio Spurs 133-123.

Embiid — the reigning NBA MVP — broke the Sixers franchise record for most points in a game, surpassing Wilt Chamberlain’s 68 in December 1967. Embiid is the ninth player in league history to score 70 or more points in a game. He also is only the third player 7 feet or taller to reach the 70-point plateau in a game, joining Chamberlain and David Robinson. And Embiid reached 70 points in just 37 minutes of playing time, the fewest of any NBA player to score 70 or more points.

Embiid’s historic performance occurred on Jan. 22, the same date — 18 years later — as Kobe Bryant’s 81-point performance against the Toronto Raptors.

Embiid, Bryant, Chamberlain, Robinson, Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, David Thompson, Devin Booker and Elgin Baylor are the players to tally 70 points in a single game. Chamberlain did it six times. Even NBA greats Michael Jordan and Larry Bird never reached 70.

Where does Embiid’s game rank among individual scoring performances? If you tally it based on points, Embiid is tied for 12th all-time. Chamberlain’s 100 points remains the record for single-game points, set on March 2, 1962, against the New York Knicks.

Ranking based on true shooting percentage — the measure of a player’s efficiency that takes into account field goals, 3-pointers and free throws — presents a different picture. Embiid’s 70-point night is ranked seventh all-time (among players who scored at least 70 points), with a true shooting percentage of 68.5 percent. Chamberlain’s 100 is 10th, with 64.9 percent true shooting.

Below are the top single-game performances based on true shooting percentage in NBA history.

Top 10 individual scoring games (by TS%)

Player TS% Points Date

Damian Lillard

80.4

71

Feb. 26, 2023

Donovan Mitchell

78.9

71

Jan. 2, 2023

David Thompson

78

73

April 9, 1978

Kobe Bryant

73.9

81

Jan. 22, 2006

Wilt Chamberlain

73.4

70

March 10, 1963

Wilt Chamberlain

71.1

73

Nov. 16, 1962

Joel Embiid

68.5

70

Jan. 22, 2024

David Robinson

68.3

71

April 24, 1994

Devin Booker

68

70

March 24, 2017

Wilt Chamberlain

64.9

100

March 2, 1962

5. Wilt Chamberlain, 73.4 percent true shooting (70 points: March 10, 1963)

Against the Syracuse Nationals, this was Chamberlain’s last game scoring at least 70 points. He shot 71.1 percent from the field, with 38 field goal attempts (making 27). He added 16 free throws and grabbed 18 rebounds.

But Chamberlain’s 70 points couldn’t propel his San Francisco Warriors to victory; they lost 163-148 to the Nationals. Chamberlain is one of three players to score at least 70 points and lose the game. In half of Chamberlain’s games scoring 70 or more points, his team lost.

4. Kobe Bryant, 73.9 percent true shooting (81 points: Jan. 22, 2006)

It was a game fit for Hollywood as the “Black Mamba” dismantled the Toronto Raptors at the then-Staples Center.

The Raptors led the Los Angeles Lakers by 14 points at halftime, and at one point in the third, the Lakers trailed by 18. Then, it became the Bryant show. He scored 27 points in the third quarter before adding 28 in the fourth. Only 18 second-half Lakers points were scored by someone other than Bryant. His 55 second-half points are the most in any half by any player since the NBA’s play-by-play era (started in 1996-97).

Bryant finished with 81 points on 28-of-46 shooting overall and 7-of-13 from beyond the arc. He went 18-of-20 from the free-throw line.

Bryant led the Lakers to a 122-104 come-from-behind win, and his point total of 81 remains the closest to Chamberlain’s 100-point game. For a player who averaged 44.7 percent shooting from the field over his career, it was one of Bryant’s most efficient performances. He joined Pete Maravich (1977) as the only other guard to make at least 25 field goals and 15 free throws in a game.

3. David Thompson, 78.0 percent true shooting (73 points: April 9, 1978)

Thompson’s 73 points remain a Denver Nuggets record. Despite losing 139-137 to the Detroit Pistons, Thompson’s prolific-scoring game launched him into the scoring title race with Spurs superstar George Gervin.

Thompson shot 38 times, sinking 28 of them. He also went 17-of-20 from the free-throw line.

Thompson is one of three players to score 73 or more points in a game, joining Bryant and Chamberlain. His 73 points — scored on the final day of the regular season — allowed Thompson to match Gervin’s points per game average (27.2).

2. Donovan Mitchell, 78.9 percent true shooting (71 points: Jan. 2, 2023)

Mitchell has many individual accolades in his career. He is a four-time All-Star and was named to the All-NBA second team in 2022-23. His 71 points on Jan. 2, 2023, in a 145-134 OT win over the Chicago Bulls, remains one of his top career achievements.

Mitchell scored 71 points on just 34 field goal attempts. Every other player who tallied 70 or more points needed more than 34 shots. Mitchell drained 22 baskets, including seven 3-pointers, and was 20-of-25 from the free-throw line. Mitchell scored 55 of his 71 points after halftime, and he scored or assisted on 99 of Cleveland’s 145 points, the second most total in NBA history behind Chamberlain. He was the first player in NBA history with at least 70 points and 10 assists in a game.

Mitchell is tied for sixth in NBA history for most points in a single game, along with Robinson, Baylor and Lillard.

1. Damian Lillard, 80.4 percent true shooting (71 points: Feb. 26, 2023)

The most efficient performance from a player scoring 70 or more points belongs to Lillard. As a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, “Dame Time” put up 71 points in a 131-114 win over the Houston Rockets.

Like Mitchell, he drained 22 baskets from the field. But Lillard hit 13 of 22 3s and was a perfect 14-of-14 from the free-throw line.

By halftime, Lillard had 41 points. His mark is a Blazers record in points and the most from a player 32 years or older.

Lillard played 39 minutes in that game against Houston, the second-fewest in a 70-point game in NBA history (ahead of only Embiid). He became the first player in NBA history with at least 70 points and 10 3s in a game.

Other notable performances

• No conversation about individual scoring performances is complete without Chamberlain’s 100. He set records for field goal attempts (63), field goals made (36), free throws made (28) and most points in a half (59). Chamberlain played all 48 minutes and added 25 rebounds in that March 1962 game against New York.

• Jordan’s career-high in points was 69 against the Cavaliers on March 28, 1990. He shot 23 of 37 from the field and was 21-of-23 from the free-throw line. His 69 points and 18 rebounds made him one of six players to record at least 60 points and 10 rebounds in a single game since 1986.

• Bird scored a career-high 60 points against the Atlanta Hawks on March 12, 1985. He finished 22-of-36 from the floor, scoring 32 of his 60 points over a 14-minute second-half span.

Required reading

The Athletic’s James Jackson contributed

(Photo: Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)





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