Yahoo Sports AM: A historic night for hoops

In today's edition: A rare scoring night in the NBA, Patrick Mahomes' playoff dominance, "Behind the Lens" with Getty Images, and more.

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🚨 Headlines

🎾 While you were sleeping: Coco Gauff beat Marta Kostyuk to reach her first Australian Open semifinal and Novak Djokovic beat Taylor Fritz to reach his 11th. The last 10 times he made it this far, he won it all.

🏈 Titans to hire Callahan: Tennessee is finalizing a deal to hire Bengals OC Brian Callahan as the team's next head coach.

⛳️ Dunlap's historic jump: After becoming the first amateur to win a PGA Tour event in 33 years, Nick Dunlap rose 4,061 spots in the rankings (4,129 to 68), the biggest one-week jump in OWGR history.

🏈 Lions add Ertz: Three-time Pro-Bowl tight end Zach Ertz signed with the Lions on Monday and could join the active roster for the NFC title game.

⚽️ Strike imminent? MLS referees voted unanimously on Monday to authorize a strike if their union doesn't ink a new CBA before their current one expires on Jan. 31. That could set the stage for replacement refs when the season begins on Feb. 21.

🏀 What a night: 70 for Embiid, 62 for KAT

(Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

On the 18th anniversary of Kobe Bryant's 81-point game, Joel Embiid scored 70 and Karl-Anthony Towns scored 62, both franchise records. Now that's how you honor a legend.

A night to remember: Monday marked the fourth time in NBA history — and first time in 46 years — that two players scored 60+ points on the same day.

  • Dec. 8, 1961: Wilt Chamberlain (78) and Elgin Baylor (63)

  • Jan. 17, 1962: Jerry West (63) and Chamberlain (62)

  • April 9, 1978: David Thompson (73) and George Gervin (63)

  • Jan. 22, 2024: Embiid (70) and Towns (62)

How rare is this? Embiid is the ninth member of the 70-point club, joining Chamberlain (6x), Bryant, Thompson, Baylor, David Robinson, Donovan Mitchell, Damian Lillard and Devin Booker.

  • Embiid's outburst in a 133-123 win over the Spurs was the 14th 70-point game in the history of the NBA, which dates back to 1946.

  • For context: There have been 19 perfect games in MLB since 1946 and 15 instances of an NFL player rushing for 250+ yards.

Stat of the day: Embiid is now averaging more points per 36 minutes this season (38.0) than Chamberlain did (37.4) when he averaged an NBA-record 50.4 points per game in 1961-62, the season he famously scored 100 points in a game.

  • Embiid (2023-24): 36.1 points in 34.3 minutes per game

  • Chamberlain (1961-62): 50.4 points in 48.5 minutes per game

Looking ahead: With all due respect to Nikola Jokić, Embiid is the clear choice to repeat as MVP this season — as long as he plays enough games to be eligible*.

(David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
(David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Meanwhile, in Minnesota… Towns' historic night was much less celebratory as it came in a 128-125 loss to the lowly Hornets.

  • In the locker room, Anthony Edwards admitted the West-leading Wolves were focused on feeding the hot hand rather than winning the game, which they led by 15 entering the fourth quarter.

  • Head coach Chris Finch was irate, calling his team's performance "disgusting" and "immature." He also said Towns was "hunting a big number."

Zoom out: Embiid and Towns' scoring outbursts are part of a points explosion sweeping the NBA.

  • Teams are averaging 115.5 points per game this season, the highest mark in over 50 years.

  • Only five teams averaged more than 100 points the year Bryant scored 81. This season, no team scores fewer than 107.5.

Worth a watch: Kevin Durant's reaction to hearing Embiid scored 70

*MVP eligibility: A new NBA rule requires players to play at least 65 games (out of 82) to be eligible for end-of-season awards. Embiid has already missed 11 of 42 games; seven more and he’ll be ineligible.

🏈 Patrick Mahomes: Playoff legend

(Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)
(Amy Monks/Yahoo Sports)

The AFC Championship will be Patrick Mahomes' 17th playoff game. Now that he has almost a full regular season's worth of experience, it's easier to visualize just how dominant he's been, Jeff writes.

How he compares: Mahomes, 28, has played in nearly as many playoff games (16) as Jared Goff, Lamar Jackson and Brock Purdy, combined (17).

  • Mahomes (16 games): 13-3, 4,561 passing yards, 38 TD, 7 INT, 66.8% CMP, 106.7 RTG; 443 rush yards, 5 TD

  • Goff (8 games): 5-3, 1,864 passing yards, 7 TD, 2 INT, 61.8% CMP, 88.3 RTG; 35 rush yards

  • Jackson (5 games): 2-3, 1,052 passing yards, 5 TD, 5 INT, 58.2% CMP, 75.7 RTG; 467 rush yards, 3 TD

  • Purdy (4 games): 3-1, 821 passing yards, 4 TD, 0 INT, 62.8% CMP, 101.0 RTG; 38 rush yards, TD

By the numbers: Mahomes' 13 playoff wins are more than the Texans (5), Cardinals (7), Jaguars (8), Panthers (9), Lions (9), Bengals (10), Falcons (10), Saints (10), Bucs (12), Browns (12), Chargers (12) and Jets (12).

  • He's averaged 285 passing yards per game, which would have led all QBs this season (min. 10 games).

  • His 38 playoff passing TDs already rank sixth all-time, and are the most ever through 16 games.

  • He has twice as many playoff games with 3+ passing TDs (8) as he does playoff games with an interception (4).

  • His 66.8% completion rate and 106.7 passer rating are both better than his regular-season numbers (66.5%, 103.5), which rank second and ninth all-time.

  • He's even added 443 rushing yards and five rushing scores in his 16 playoff games, which would both be the best single-season marks of his career.

The bottom line: Mahomes' first six regular seasons as an NFL starter are unparalleled — and he gets even better when the postseason arrives.

🏀 New stat: Suffocates

(Tim Heitman/Getty Images)
(Tim Heitman/Getty Images)

The Cavaliers, winners of eight straight games behind their stingy defense, have created a new stat to measure their dominance on that end of the floor.

  • The stat: "Suffocates"

  • The definition: Three consecutive defensive stops equals one suffocate.

What they're saying: "It's something that we talk about within the team as the game goes on," head coach J.B. Bickerstaff told ($). "We let the guys know how many [suffocates] we have and how close we are to getting another one. It's something they hang their hat on. … Sparks that competitive edge a little bit."

📸 Behind the lens: Biathlon World Cup

(Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
(Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Each week, we go "Behind the Lens" with Getty Images to get the backstory on the best photographs in sports.

  • This week's photo: Hannah Auchentaller of Italy competes during the Women's 7.5 km Sprint at the Biathlon World Cup in Ruhpolding, Germany, earlier this month.

  • How it works: Biathlon combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting, with athletes skiing along a trail (while carrying their rifle) and stopping after each lap to shoot at targets. Whoever completes the course in the fastest time wins.

Behind the lens: Here's photographer Alexander Hassenstein…

I've always loved biathlon and am fascinated by it. When covering events, you can run with all your might, then have the peace and quiet to shoot. It's loud in the stadium, but when the athletes are out on the slope, you're almost alone with them and can feel the sport up close.

For this photo: I've been covering the biathlon in Ruhpolding for many years, so I know the sun never comes to this point on the course. But thanks to some beautiful weather this year, the sun turned the mountains a wonderful red in the evening.

The light is the most important thing in this photo. We always say the athletes, but here it's the beautiful light. There was maybe only 10 minutes of it, but that’s all I needed. I used my standard Canon R3 cameras and the 15/35 mm lens, all on manual settings.

🏀 Jan. 23, 2015: Klay's 37-point quarter

(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Nine years ago today, Klay Thompson scored 37 points* and hit nine threes (on a perfect 13-for-13 shooting) in the third quarter of a win over the Kings, both NBA records for a single quarter, Jeff writes.

Thompson after the game: "I was just trying to shoot until I miss. Honestly, I took like four heat checks, but they just kept going in. I don't know what to tell you. I just got into a zone and it was the best zone I've ever been in."

More on this day:

  • 🏒 1944: The Red Wings beat the Rangers, 15-0, in the biggest shutout victory in NHL history.

  • ⚾️ 1962: Jackie Robinson was elected to the Hall of Fame, becoming the first Black player enshrined in Cooperstown.

*30-point quarters: Thompson is one of 10 players with a 30-point quarter, joined by Kevin Love (34), George Gervin (33), Carmelo Anthony (33), David Thompson (32), Karl-Anthony Towns (32), Wilt Chamberlain (31), Michael Jordan (30), Vernon Maxwell (30) and Kobe Bryant (30, twice).

📺 Watchlist: Crosstown rivalries

The Lakers beat the Clippers, 106-103, earlier this month. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
The Lakers beat the Clippers, 106-103, earlier this month. (Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Tonight's NBA doubleheader on TNT features crosstown rivalries in the nation's two biggest markets, Jeff writes.

  • Knicks at Nets (7:30pm ET): The Big Apple's teams are heading in opposite directions, with New York (26-17) winning eight of 10* and Brooklyn (17-25) losing eight of 10.

  • Lakers at Clippers (10pm): The Clippers (27-14) are on fire, having won eight of 10, but they've lost both games against the Lakers (22-22) this season.

More to watch:

  • 🎾 Australian Open: Day 10 (8pm, ESPN+; 9pm, ESPN) … Quarterfinals.

  • 🏀 NCAAM: Texas at No. 11 Oklahoma (7pm, ESPN); No. 6 Kentucky at South Carolina (7pm, SEC); No. 4 Houston at No. 21 BYU (9pm, ESPN+); Michigan at No. 2 Purdue (9pm, Peacock)

*The catalyst: The Knicks' hot streak began in earnest 11 games ago, when newly-acquired forward OG Anunoby made his debut on New Year's Day. Since then they've gone 9-2, and Anunoby's +190 plus-minus has been the NBA's best mark in 2024.

🏀 NBA trivia

Chamberlain poses for a photo shoot during his time at Kansas. (Bettman Archives/Getty Images)
Chamberlain poses for a photo shoot during his time at Kansas. (Bettman Archives/Getty Images)

Joel Embiid and Wilt Chamberlain were both drafted out of Kansas by NBA teams based in Philadelphia.

Question: Embiid's Philly team is called the 76ers. What was Chamberlain's called?

  • Royals

  • Warriors

  • Nets

  • Hawks

Answer at the bottom.

⚽️ AFCON's breakout star: Emilio Nsue

(Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)
(Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

Emilio Nsue plays defense for third-tier Spanish club CF Intercity. For Equatorial Guinea, he's a striker, and he can't stop scoring goals.

  • The 34-year-old has five goals in three matches at the Africa Cup of Nations, the most in a group stage since 1970.

  • Again: This is a defender by trade (right-back to be more specific) moonlighting as a striker, and he's thriving. You love to see it.

Tiny nations making noise: Equatorial Guinea and Cape Verde, the tournament's two smallest countries by population, are undefeated and have already won their groups — beating traditional powers like Ghana and host Ivory Coast along the way.

Where it stands: Group stage standings

Trivia answer: Philadelphia Warriors

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