LA Clippers’ Paul George hits 34 points after 3-month absence to return fueled against Utah Jazz

LOS ANGELES – Three months after he seriously considered surgery to repair a torn ulnar protective ligament in his right elbow, Paul George took to the air to perform an alley pass that went out of bounds. , extended his right arm as far as he could to catch the ball and then hit Isaiah Hartenstein’s net – all in one motion.

George’s elbow is healthy again – and it shows. He had 34 points, six assists and four steals on his return to the field to lead the Clippers to a sensational 121-115 win over the Utah Jazz at Crypto.com Arena on Tuesday night.

George hit five of seven shots, including three of four, in the third inning, as he scored 20 to help the Clippers close a 25-point gap with 8:07 remaining in the game. frames. He made 6 out of 9 3-pointers for the game.

That’s exactly what the Clippers have been missing since George last played on December 22.

“It’s at 90 percent,” says George of the strength of his elbow after letting it heal for the past three months. “But it’s still part of the process.

“It’s just like my muscles and forearms get stronger.”

George’s 34 points is the most ever for a player who missed more than 40 of his team’s previous games within a season, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. George now has more 30-pointer games this season (7) than the rest of the Clippers team combined (6).

And George’s timing couldn’t have been better. He’s back to stop the Clippers’ five-game losing streak while also leading another unlikely comeback for LA. Ty Lue’s team has the most wins of 24 plus points in a season with four games. They had previously set a record with three arriving in January alone.

Three of their wins from behind this season have been by 25 or less, the most in the past 25 seasons. According to research by ESPN Stats & Information, Utah has had the best NBA record of 235-0 since 1996-97, leading by 25 goals or more in the regular season.

For the Jazz, it’s a bittersweet reminder of what happened last summer when the Clippers came back home from 25th to knock Utah out in game 6 in the second leg of the knockout round.

Now, the Clippers, who take eighth place in the Western Conference rankings, are feeling more confident with the return of their star defender.

George, who played 30 minutes, said that when the team announced on Christmas Day he would be out indefinitely due to a torn UCL, he considered having surgery to get ready for next season.

“Honestly, as soon as it happened, I sided with just having surgery,” says George. “And let’s get over it and get it done now so I don’t have to go through a trauma and healing summer.

“I wanted to run on the ground in the summer, so immediately I wanted surgery.”

But George said the doctor overseeing the injury told him the ligament could heal and “reattach itself to the bone” after the break.

Just over a month ago, George was seen shooting with his left hand before the All-Star award.

“It’s really great because I have a lot of work with my left hand,” George told ESPN’s Malika Andrews after Tuesday’s game. “I’ve become a better player throughout this process because I have to use my left hand more. I think it will show as the season goes on with passing, finishing and handling.

“I’ve just done a lot of work to get to a place where I feel confident shooting 3s with my left. I don’t know if anyone will see that in a game.”

But he was able to shoot with his right elbow earlier this month, and then he went through full training and scripting this week.

George said the experience of coming back from serious injuries like a terrible right shin fracture during the US national basketball team’s practice game in 2014 has helped orient him for the past three months.

“I mean, I just know what it takes,” George said. “I know what it takes, dedication, commitment. It’s not just on the field; it’s off the field. And so I’ve been here before, so I know how to hit a rehab. “

When George scored three goals in a row late in the third half against the Clippers’ bench, Lue knew his star defender was back. And then there was his catch and pass to Hartenstein in the fourth inning.

The Clippers are hoping for more help for the play-in, as guard Norman Powell could return to training in a week or so if things continue to progress with a fracture in his foot. his left.

“It changed a lot for us,” Lue said of how George changed the team’s complexion going into the game. “Getting a perennial All-Star back, getting a defensive player, it just changed so much for us.”

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/33623010/sources-la-clippers-paul-george-expected-return-tuesday-three-month-absence LA Clippers’ Paul George hits 34 points after 3-month absence to return fueled against Utah Jazz

Luke Plunkett

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