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Nikola Vucevic to return against Pelicans

Vucevic missed 11 games with a sprained ankle

NBA: New York Knicks at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back, Vooch!

After missing 11 games because of a sprained ankle, Nikola Vucevic is set to return to the Magic’s lineup when they play the Pelicans on Sunday.

The Magic fared better than expected without their All-Star center, though the schedule also did them some favors. Orlando went 5-6 in his absence, with wins coming over teams they were expected to beat like the Cavs (twice), Wizards, Warriors and Suns.

Thanks in part to the offensive outburst of Evan Fournier, and an overall increase in shooting efficiency, the Magic’s offensive rating increased from 103.3 in 14 games with Vucevic to 105.5 in 11 games without him.

Without Vucevic, though, the Magic’s defensive rating dropped from 104.1 with to 108.2. The Magic also suffered on the defensive glass where their rebounding percentage fell from 76.4 to 73.5, contributing to an increase in opponent’s second chance points and points in the paint.

Fournier has averaged 24.1 points per game since Vooch went down, shooting 48.2 percent from the field and 44.3 percent from three. The Magic also got a boost from Mo Bamba, who made meaningful contributions as back-up center, averaging 7.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 17.9 minutes per in Vucevic’s absence.

If both continue producing at similar levels, and Vucevic can return to All-Star form, it will bode well for a Magic team in the midst of one of its most challenging stretches of the season.