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Philadelphia 76ers: Alec Burks vying for more minutes after injury to Ben Simmons

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Alec Burks
Image: Alec Burks impressed against the Magic on Friday

A window of opportunity may have presented itself for Alec Burks to enhance his role with the Philadelphia 76ers as they adjust to life in the bubble without Ben Simmons. 

Simmons will require surgery on the partially dislocated left kneecap he sustained during Wednesday's game against the Washington Wizards and is set to miss the remainder of the campaign.

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The All-Star had been averaging 16.4 points, eight assists, 7.8 rebounds and a league-high 2.1 steals in 57 games so far this season.

"You're just numb to it. You just move on," Philadelphia coach Brett Brown told reporters. "You figure it out. You coach who you have. I do genuinely believe this can galvanize our group and bring us an inverted way together."

While a major blow, his absence invites Burks to build on his 22-point performance in Friday's 108-101 win over the Orlando Magic.

 Orlando Magic up against the Philadelphia 76ers 2:01
Highlights of the Orlando Magic up against the Philadelphia 76ers

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The 29-year-old finished eight of 15 from the field and three of seven from three-point range, as well as providing four rebounds and two assists, logging welcome minutes at point guard and earning praise for his play in the pick-and-roll.

It was comfortably his most productive game for Philadelphia since being acquired from the Golden State Warriors ahead of February's trade deadline, with Burks having played fewer than 20 minutes in eight of 15 games for the team so far.

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"When you ask 'what did he do?', his ability to dance out of the pick-and-roll," said Brown.

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"The notion that defensive players probably go over on him more than under lets rolling opportunities happen more frequently and so you just feel confident in something as simple as a space pick-and-roll and or Jo (Joel Embiid) in it, roll Joel, let Alec dance, and space some shooters, it was a clean, simple environment that I thought that he really was excellent."

Burks managed just 42 minutes across the opening three games of the restart, however was able to underline his ability to create his own shot as he made all six of his attempts from deep and seven of 10 from the field heading into the victory over Orlando.

His difficulty finding consistency in Golden State will be a factor in mind for Brown, but there is certainly a case for handing Burks more minutes in view of giving the 76ers offense an added injection.

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The trend of under-the-radar players shining in the bubble is, meanwhile, another reason to be tempted by thrusting Burks into a more prominent role.

"Alec, he just has the ability to score in bunches, and we need that," said Al Horford after the Orlando game. "We need to continue to keep him involved and put him into positions where he can help us."

Burks finds himself competing in the rotation with the likes of Furkan Korkmaz, the pair representing the Sixers' best shooters off the bench.

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Glenn Robinson III is also likely to add to Burks' fight for minutes as he looks to return from a hip issue that has ruled him out of all four games since the league's resumption.

He is by no means a replacement for Simmons, but collectively Burks, Josh Richardson and Shake Milton may be able to soften the burden on Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris.

The 76ers come up against a Portland Trail Blazers side scrapping to keep their playoff hopes alive on Sunday after suffering a defeat to the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night.

Portland are just a half-game in front of the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns, as well as one game ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans.

Philadelphia, who are on a three-game winning streak, have already secured a playoff spot and cannot fall lower than sixth in the Eastern Conference.

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