Anthony Black earns a career game and gets boost from Orlando Magic teammates

Everyone with the Orlando Magic knows Anthony Black's value on defense. He finally had an offensive breakthrough and it was as much about how the team set him up for success.

Anthony Black had a career outing against the Washington Wizards, a product of the team's strong play and his readiness to deliver.
Anthony Black had a career outing against the Washington Wizards, a product of the team's strong play and his readiness to deliver. / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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Anthony Black has been one of the quietest starters in the league. His role for this Orlando Magic team ever since he was pressed into duty for the injured Markelle Fultz was to defend hard and be available to shoot.

He was not even necessarily running the true point guard as his 3.8 field goal attempts per game and 11.3 percent usage rate would suggest. Black at times can feel like a place filler on offense at times.

But coach Jamahl Mosley has repeated what Anthony Black does for this team does not always show up on a box score. For a 19-year-old, Black is a strong defender and someone the Magic trust to handle and switch onto some tough defensive assignments.

A game like Tuesday's in Washington, D.C., did not feel inevitable. But give any NBA player an opportunity and open that door, they are going to come through it. They have to.

And Black is a talented player who was a scoring machine even in the cramped space with Arkansas in his lone college season. He always had a game like this in him.

Black turned in a career performance for the Orlando Magic in a 117-109 victory over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday. He scored 23 points, made 4 of 6 3-pointers and added four steals for good measure.

After a long period of seemingly quiet offensive performances and at least a few questions of whether the Magic might be better off moving him to the bench -- acknowledging how good his defense can be -- this was at least proof of concept of Black's offensive contributions.

The rookie finally had his breakthrough game.

"We've said it time and time again, the things that he does don't always show up in the box score," coach Jamahl Mosley said after Tuesday's win. "It's the cuts. It's the rebounds. It's the screening, the movement and spacing the floor the right way. Guys did a great job finding him as they shifted off of him. He was ready to step in and knock his shot down. Credit to him for the work that he put in but credit to his teammates for continuing to trust him and what he's done."

The Magic have kept their faith in their rookie guard -- the sixth overall pick from the 2023 NBA Draft. Black has rewarded that on defense for much of the season. This time he rewarded them on offense.

All the hard work Black has put in to improve his game had paid off.

It has been a lot of work to get Black to this moment. His shot has been surprisingly strong -- especially early in the season -- but has settled in at 31.4 percent from deep for the year entering Tuesday's game. The scout is still clearly about leaving Black open.

He has had to find his ways to attack and find places to score while waiting for the ball to swing to him. Black's role is not to go out there and hunt shots. But he always has to be ready when the ball swings to him.

That is what happened throughout the game against the Wizards. Washington was sending double teams to Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner throughout the early parts of the game. Someone was going to be open.

Often this year, Black has been the one teams have been willing to double off of. At some point he had to make them pay.

"I think just doing a good job of cutting. Because of how much focus and eyes, Franz, Paolo and everyone else gets, I get a lot of easy ones from them," Black said after Tuesday's game. "I got a couple of them in transition and got pretty open threes. I'm pretty sure most of my points were assisted. Just goes out to the guys for finding me."

Most of his points were indeed assisted. This was the Magic finding the right guy and the hole in the defense with the Wizards committing two or three to stopping Banchero and Wagner once again.

It was a sign of how the entire team was moving the ball. Orlando recorded its fifth game of the season with 30 or more assists. Banchero and Wagner combined for 17 between those two high-usage players.

The Orlando Magic were eager to move the ball and work it to cutters moving into space or to shooters -- they made 12 of 26 3-pointers for their first game shooting better than 40 percent from three since the Dec. 15 loss to the Boston Celtics.

That also came with turnovers -- 16 of them including five from Black who was trying to push the ball ahead and trying to share in the passing the team had throughout. There is always something to get better at.

But still, even with good passing, the team has to take advantage of it. The Wizards were likely find seeing Black shoot plenty. It was on him to take advantage of him. That is not something he has always done or the team has sought from him.

They saw exactly what he could do everyone can notice it.

"I think the coaches have done a great job with him and he has done a heck of a job continuing to work," Mosley said after Tuesday's win. "Not just on his shot, but just overall reading and studying the game. . . . It started on the defensive end of the floor and making sure he stayed locked in from the beginning of the game."

The four steals from Black and his overall defense stand out as much as his scoring too. Ultimately that is where a lot of his points came from too. He helped out on defense and look to get out in transition plenty.

Black's points came from simple plays that were well executed. That is part of what has attracted the magic to Black and why he is still just as likely to play after Markelle Fultz returns from his injury. He makes a positive impact on the floor doing these simple things.

And he is only gaining confidence in these abilities.

The scoring may not be there again when the Magic play the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday at Kia Center. But they know the defense will be there and he will force teams to account for him on cuts or else another game like this can happen.

Black is willing to do whatever the team needs him to do.

"We're playing good ball right now," Black said after Tuesday's win. "I'm really just trying to focus on that honestly. I know it is going to come game by game. I'm getting more comfortable. I'm just trying to do what helps us win."

Black is still finding his fit overall with this team. His role is pretty clearly and narrowly defined to this point. But there is space now for Black to have games like these. And his confidence and willingness to be more aggressive is growing as he gets more time on the floor and puts more work in behind the scenes.

Next. Magic foundation 12.26.23. Orlando Magic are building their foundation this season. dark

A breakout game like this was bound to happen. The ball was going to find Black for doing so many right things so often.

Now the question is: When will it happen again? It is almost certain to do so.