On Dec. 22, Paul George suffered a torn UCL in his right elbow. 97 days later, he’s back — as cliché as it may be — and better than ever.
He had quite the stat line in his return against the Utah Jazz: he put up an impressive 34 points shooting 50 percent from the field, 6 assists, and 4 steals to complete the team’s 25-point comeback. This marks the fourth time the team came back from a 24-point or greater deficit this season — the first team to do so in 25 years.
As impressive as his game might’ve been, it’s not something we don’t see often. The seven-time NBA All-Star had been putting on a show before his injury, averaging 25 points, 5.5 assists, and 6.9 rebounds,
But it’s more than just these numbers that the team will get from having PG-13 back on the hardwood.
He is the team’s glue, the vocal leader that helps bring the many talents of the players into one Clippers team. He is also the first option that can create shots and put points on the board when the team needs it the most. Regardless of who is in front of him, George can catch on fire from anywhere on the court and take the game into his hands.
Even without him putting up 30 each night, he can contribute to the team’s offense, freeing up those around him. Reggie Jackson, for instance, who has been handed the responsibility of being the team’s first option for the majority of the season, will see a reduction in defensive coverage and reliance, opening him up for easier and better shots.
When George brings the ball up, Jackson will now have the option to curl around screens or set his feet for catch-and-shoot threes in the corners, much like he did the last post-season. Maybe more of these better looks will help him be as lethal of a three-point shooter as he was in the 2021 Playoffs, where he shot 41 percent (he is shooting less than 33 percent this season).
Not to mention, when defenses close in on him, the team’s scoring opportunities simultaneously increase. Whether it’d be a kick-out for a Kennard three or an easy Zubac flush off a quick dime, having one of the league’s best scorers and a competent passer will open up easier looks for the Clippers to score.
And if Kawhi Leonard or Norman Powell are cleared to come back, the return of George gives more reasons for them to suit up, even with the season quickly approaching its end.
When: Tuesday, March 31 at 5 p.m. PT
Where: United Center, Chicago, Illinois
How to watch/listen: Bally Sports SoCal, AM 570 ESPN
Opposing perspective: Blog a Bull
Spread: Clippers +2, Bulls -2
Projected Starting Lineups
Clippers: Reggie Jackson, Paul George, Marcus Morris Sr., Nicolas Batum, Ivica Zubac
Bulls: Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic
Clippers: Norman Powell, Kawhi Leonard, Jason Preston, Jay Scrubb — OUT
This post will serve as the game thread. Enjoy the game, and comment below.