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Raptors vs. Trail Blazers: Duel of the Fates and the Backcourts

The Blazers have a great backcourt, the Raptors also have a great backcourt. This could be something.

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Everybody is talking about Damian Lillard -- even when they're not. He's putting up 25.3 points per game for a surprisingly ascendant Trail Blazers team. Lillard is an easy guy to root for when you consider he was basically left to his own devices in Portland. Can you imagine being told your entire team -- one well-stocked with talent -- was about to be jettisoned for a rebuild? There had to be a moment of despair in there somewhere. It's a big leap to go from LaMarcus Aldridge to Noah Vonleh.

But, for Lillard it was presumably just that: a moment. Since then he, aided by C.J. McCollum, have taken the Blazers higher than anyone thought. They're 33-29 and feel much better equipped to deal with the incoming playoffs than creaky Mavericks and Grizzlies teams, for example. It's a nice story.

As per usual, I can tell you who doesn't care about the nice story going on in the visitor locker room: Kyle Lowry. He's a point guard that no one was talking about for years. And now Lowry's played himself into the top five discussion, aided by his All-Star teammate DeMar DeRozan. This will be the story of the game: Lillard and McCollum against Lowry and DeRozan. Don't let anyone tell you anything different.

Now, some pre-game reading:

Check out TSN's Josh Lewenberg with a look back at Bebe after the Utah Jazz game.

I also learned that James Johnson is battling some plantar fasciitis via Doug Smith at the Toronto Star.

Finally, Dan Grant has your preview and three things to keep an eye on.

Now, let's get to it.