Boston, which was required to do so on pain of mortgaging its qualification, largely beat Philadelphia (121-87) and its MVP Joel Embiid back from injury, to tie with a victory everywhere in their Eastern Conference semi-final, Wednesday in NBA playoffs.

This time, the Celtics have not scuttled their efforts, falling off the last quarter. A not really sweet sin, which had sanctioned them with a defeat at TD Garden, in the first round against Atlanta with Trae Young for executioner (38 pts), and another to open their series against the Sixers, James Harden being a pleasure to reverse the situation almost single-handedly (45 pts).

“It was super important to win this game and I think we deserved it,” responded Jaylen Brown, his team’s top scorer with 25 points in three quarters.

It must be said that the finalists of last season, also guided by the precious 6th man Malcolm Brogdon (23 pts, 6/10 behind the arc), already had a 32 unit lead shortly before the end of the third quarter. Also, a comeback was therefore highly unlikely, it being understood that Philly could be satisfied with having already recovered the advantage of the floor and therefore avoid providing a great useless effort.

Especially since good news came all the same to accompany this setback: the return of Joel Embiid. The Cameroonian pivot, named MVP of the season for the first time on Tuesday, has certainly not been as mobile and dominant as he usually is inside (15 pts at 4/9 in shots) after almost two weeks without playing, but his right knee recovered from a sprain has apparently held up well.

“There’s nothing like playing a game and finding your rhythm. I thought tonight was going well, but it should get better as the days go by,” he said, adding “anyway, I have no excuses, if I’m here is that I can play”.

In the first period, he was also “there”, being very dissuasive in defense with five counterattacks inflicted, including a very impressive one to repel a dunk attempt from Brown. Moments earlier, he had put up a wall in front of Jayson Tatum, sent back to the ground and a little shy as he got up.

The star of the C’s was also not in a great evening, limited to 7 points (1/7 on shots, 7 rebounds), without this penalizing his partners, because the ardor put in defense “has makes the difference,” said Jaylen Brown.

“We tried to be aggressive. We had to set the tone in this sector,” insisted the latter.

First victim of these newfound desires, James Harden was much less in verve than during his recital in the first round, paying a starving address to the shots (2/14 including 0/6 at long distance, 10 rebounds).

So much so that it was Tobias Harris (16 pts) who, for once, finished as the team’s top scorer.

“We were pretty bad offensively, but you have to give them credit that their pressure on the ball devoured us all night,” coach Doc Rivers said, with Embiid pointing out that the C’s “played with more desperation” than the C’s. Sixers.

“We knew they were going to react after the first game and we were just not ready enough. But we will fix it” during match N.3 Friday in Philadelphia, promised the Cameroonian.