Magic’s Cole Anthony finding scoring rhythm by getting into the paint more – The Denver Post

Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony has made strides in rediscovering his rhythm as a scorer this past week.

Before last Friday’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans, Anthony was going through an extended slump.

Anthony averaged 7.6 points on 29.2% shooting (12.5% on 2.7 3s attempted) in his previous nine games before that win.

He’s starting to turn a corner.

“Lot of credit to my teammates,” Anthony said. “Getting some easy buckets just because they’re doing a great job of finding me. I’m just trying to run the floor for them and make their jobs a little easier. Take some pressure off of them.”

Anthony’s averaged 13.5 points on 56.8% shooting (25% on 3s) in the Magic’s last four games entering Friday’s road matchup against the Miami Heat.

What’s helped Anthony re-establish that scoring rhythm has been a greater emphasis on getting inside the paint.

During the slump, 3.7 of his 8 field-goal attempts (46.3%) were there. Anthony was shooting worse (40.5%) during that stretch compared to his season-long efficiency (51.2%) but also was getting there less.

Anthony’s made it a point to be more of a threat on the interior recently, with 6.3 of his 9.3 shots per game (67.7%) coming inside the paint. He shot 68.3% on those looks.

His improved finishing around the rim has been a season-long trend. Anthony’s 59.7% shooting accuracy in the restricted area and 46.3% accuracy inside the non-paint restricted area are career highs.

He’s also drawing more shooting fouls than he did in previous years.

“It’s different touch,” Anthony told the Sentinel. “At the same time, it’s also I’ve watched a lot of guys around the league. Knowing my spots and knowing where I want to take my shots.”

He’s been driving to the basket a little more (10.5 drives per 36 minutes in the last four games) compared to his slump (10.1 per 36 minutes), but still not at the same frequency as earlier in the season (12.1 drives per 36 minutes in his first 17 games).

“It was a matter of feeling like I’ve played several games this year where I’ve just been super passive,” Anthony told the Sentinel. “I was like ‘All right, well that’s not me.’ I’m not [a] ball mover. There are dudes in this league who are ball movers, who get out there [and] throw the ball around. That’s not me. That’s never been me. I know I’m capable of making something happen.”

Anthony’s had to lean on driving and finishing inside the paint as a more consistent weapon. He’s trying to establish his rhythm as an outside shooter. Anthony has shot a career-low 30.3% on 3s this season, including 29% on catch-and-shoot 3s after 36.3% and 32.6% on those looks the previous two years.

“I know I can shoot it. I ain’t been shooting the ball too great,” he said. “So I’m like ‘All right, let me get somewhere I can be kind of efficient.’ Made it a point to get into that paint and put pressure on the defense.

“A lot of the teams’ focal points are focusing on Franz [Wagner] and Paolo [Banchero]. Cool, I’m going to use that to my advantage and make their job a little easier by being aggressive and making the defense stay honest.”

Even as he’s righted his scoring, Anthony remains a consistent playmaker.

His 4.2 assists and 7.6 potential assists (a pass to a teammate who shoots within 1 dribble of receiving the ball) and 10.9 assists points created are second on the team only behind Markelle Fultz.

Anthony and Fultz have brought a greater drive-and-kick presence to the Magic. They’re the lone rotation players who pass out of at least 40% of their drives.

Anthony mixes in drive and kicks, throwaheads and pocket passes to help set up his teammates. His turnover frequency (11.2%) is a career low.

“It’s just the simple play is usually the best,” Anthony said. “You [don’t have] to hit a home run every time. You want to aim for singles and doubles. That’s the best way to do it. Those singles and doubles add up.”

Anthony’s role has been different this season compared to his previous two.

He’s come off the bench in 27 of 30 games after starting in 99 of 112 his first two seasons and is playing fewer minutes (25.8) than he did as a rookie (27.1) and sophomore (31.7).

Since the change to a reserve, he’s finding his groove again.

“The great part about Cole is he’s embracing every time he steps on the floor whatever we’re asking him to do,” coach Jamahl Mosley said. “We’ve talked about him being a tenacious defender, getting into the basketball. Offensively, picking and choosing spots when he’s attacking vs. distributing. That’s what keeps him on the floor. He’s done a great job of with that level of poise and understanding his ability to attack as well as distribute.”

This article first appeared on Email Khobi Price at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.


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