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It’s fine, right?

Joel Embiid – the 2022-23 NBA Most Valuable Player – was back in the Sixers lineup Wednesday night during the team’s Game 2 semifinal against the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden. Embiid returned to the lineup for the first time since he suffered an LCL sprain in his right knee in Game 3 against the Brooklyn Nets in the first round on April 20.

The Sixers got their doors blown off in the end, 121-87, but it’s important to remember the same result of a loss occurs even if the Celtics scored one more point than the Sixers. So, if we put things in perspective, coming back to the Wells Fargo Center with a 1-1 split and three of the next possible five games at home is a good thing. But, again, the Celtics could just as easily win a game and steal back “home-court advantage” in Philly. We’ve seen it countless times over the years, especially here in Philly and especially at Lincoln Financial Field.

Do you think I don’t see the irony in saying all this when the Phillies just made the World Series and credited a large part of their run to playing at Citizens Bank Park? How about the Eagles dominating the NFC on their way to the Super Bowl? Needless to say, the timing of writing all this is not lost on me.

Momentum simply isn’t a thing in sports. I used to think it was, but it’s pretty clear that in the modern day, home-field, -court, -ice, whathaveyou advantage simply doesn’t exist. Momentum during the course of a game? Sure, maybe. Especially in the NBA, which is a league of runs now. But momentum from game-to-game, especially in a series, doesn’t exist. The Sixers may lose this series in five, but it would simply be because they’re not as good as the Celtics.

A lot of people have been saying this year’s Sixers team is different than years past, simply due to “statement” regular season wins and finally not letting a team get back into a series in the first round as they were able to finish off the Nets in four. Despite finishing the year as the Eastern Conference’s third seed, a lot of people think this Sixers team has a chance to exorcise the demon of the Boston Celtics. Inasmuch of what Embiid said after the game last night, him returning to the lineup for a Game 2 instead of Game 3 in Philly gets his body used to game action and hopefully knock some rust off while he continues getting treatment for his knee sprain. This could hamper Embiid the rest of the playoff run, given it’s usually a 4-6 week recovery from this injury, and he’s now played on it after two weeks. But getting him back into “game-ready” action this early in the series could bode well for the Sixers if this series stretches to six or seven games.

So, while coming home tied 1-1 is what we all should consider a big win, keeping home-court is an even bigger priority the next two games. Obviously, the Sixers can win another game at TD Garden, but you’d hope heading back to Boston with at least a 2-2 series would be considered another big win.

The Celtics said after Game 1 they weren’t motivated enough because of Embiid’s absence. You can say Embiid returning motivated them in Game 2, sure, but it was more about the Sixers just trying to get back to Philly with a split than win Game 2. It was clear they were kind of just going through the motions, which is kind of crazy to think about because it’s the playoffs. But NBA teams are different today, and with momentum not really being a thing from game-to-game, it’ll be important for the Sixers to take Game 3 in Philly on Friday night. If they can’t, Game 4 pretty much becomes a must-win.

Photo: Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

You can follow Nick Piccone on Twitter (@_piccone) and e-mail him at [email protected]. You can read his pro wrestling articles on PhillyVoice here.

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