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Magic vs. Spurs preview: Magic, aiming for .500, will be without Nikola Vucevic

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The Magic return to Orlando looking to build off their two-game sweep in Mexico City

NBA: Orlando Magic at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

The Magic have returned home from their “homestand” in Mexico City.

Having swept their two-game set south of the border, the Magic will look to get back to .500 when they host the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night.

To get there though, the Magic will have to do so without their leading scorer, Nikola Vucevic, whose wife gave birth to the couple’s first child on Monday.

That means that Mo Bamba could earn his first career start. Bamba recorded his first double-double when he last faced the Spurs, recording 12 points and 11 rebounds in just 16 minutes in the Magic’s 117-110 win in San Antonio.

The Magic will be looking to sweep the season series with the Spurs, something they haven’t done since the 2008-2009 season when they advanced to the NBA Finals. Back in the early-November win, the Magic built a 26-point lead over the Spurs and held on for what was just their sixth win in franchise history in San Antonio.

The hope is that the Magic play more like the team that played well for stretches in what were some ugly games in Mexico City rather than the team we last saw in the states (which includes lopsided losses to the Pacers and Mavericks.

They face a San Antonio team that for a bulk of the season didn’t resemble the usually rock solid organization that we are accustomed to. The Spurs, though, have won five of their last six games to get back over .500 at 16-15. That stretch has included impressive wins over the Lakers, Jazz, Clippers and Sixers, but also an inexcusable loss on their home court to the Bulls.

“Watching [the Spurs], they’re playing at a totally different level,” Steve Clifford told reporters. “Like they always do, they’ve gotten better and better. Their defense is night and day,” he added, noting that no team has reached 100 points against the Spurs in their last five games.

The Spurs, led by DeMar DeRozan and his 23.5 points per game, boast the eighth-best offensive rating in the league at 111.0 points per 100 possessions, but have the eighth worst defensive rating at 110.8 points per.

After two low scoring affairs in Mexico City, the Magic now have the 13th best defensive rating at 107.4 points per and, the concerning stat that raises questions regarding their sustainability, the fourth worst offensive rating at 104.5.

As we all know, we haven’t seen .500 basketball in these parts around Christmas very often over the last half-decade or so. The only time the Magic have had a .500 record at this point in the season since Dwight Howard left was in 2015, when they started 19-13 before collapsing when the calendar flipped to 2016.

But for the Magic, at 14-15, going up against a surging Spurs team without Vucevic won’t be an easy task.