Round 2 Begins for Denver
- By Ken Walden, Day 190, 2025
For the second round, the #2 seed Denver Dragons are facing off against division rivals and #3 seed Mexico City Jaguars. The Dragons went 4-0 against the Jaguars in the regular season, but the Denver staff is well aware that playoff-Jaguars are a different beast. The Dragons were the first victim of the Jaguars in their 2023 road to the Finals, losing to Mexico City in 7 games in the first round. And the Dragons watched with worry as Juwan Hughes had a startling first round in the playoffs, showing he was hungry yet again.
In Game 1 of the series, Hughes indeed led the Jaguars with 30 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks. Fortier was able to at least hold Hughes to some slightly inefficient shooting, with Hughes going 10/28 from the field. The Jaguars' next highest scorer was Antonio Vega off the bench, with 18, as the Jags started Shea Rammelt at point and put Jamaal Adams at shooting guard. Rammelt dealt well with Jevon Novak, who had a pedestrian 22 points on terrible 5/19 shooting (but went a perfect 10 for 10 from the free throw line). Fortunately for the Dragons, however, Aaron Honeycutt took up the slack, shooting 12/16 from the field for a line of 30 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists. Antoine Hall also had a big day with 26 points, 6 assists, and 16 rebounds. Shooting .563 eFG and getting to the line 28 times were keys to a Dragons win at home. On the other side of the ball, no Jaguars starters shot above .412 from the field and the team only visited the free throw line 10 times.
Game 2 would look different. The Dragons actually shot better, with an eFG of .600 from the field compared to .534 for the Jaguars. However, the Jags completely owned the boards, pulling down 51 rebounds to the Dragons' 37, leading to 104 shots for the Jaguars and only 82 for the Dragons. Though the game was tight in the first half, the Jaguars used their advantage on the boards to pull away in the second half, eventually leading by 21 midway through the fourth. Hughes once again led the team with 41 points, 9 rebounds, five assists, going 8/18 from past the three point line. However, Rammelt's 6 steals and the front court's rebounding were the real stars for the team.
The Jaguars are running an interesting offense right now. Though Adams is shifted to the 2, he is clearly still running the team. Adams put up 12 assists in Game 2, while Vega had 11 assists coming off the bench. Rammelt meanwhile is responsible for some three point shooting, averaging 13 points, 6.5 assists in the first two games. Most importantly, he is responsible for handling Novak on defense, and has succeeded wildly so far. Rammelt has forced Novak into bad shots and into dishing off the ball, with the All-Star guard averaging 20 point, 12.5 assists, and 5.5 turnovers in the first two games. The assists are an increase from the regular season but the scoring is much down from his typical 28 point average, and less efficient. If Rammelt can continue to force Novak into mistakes, bad shots, and passing off the ball, the Jaguars will have succeeded in disrupting the team's offense and give them a shot to take this series. With one home game already lost, the Dragons have no more home court advantage and could easily find themselves down 3-1 after the trip to Mexico City. The Dragons will be looking at their success in Game 1, where despite Novak's difficulties the offense thrived. And they will be looking at their loss on the boards in Game 2 to determine what went wrong.