LA Clippers' Paul George scores 34 in return from 3-month absence to fuel comeback vs. Utah Jazz

LOS ANGELES -- Three months after he seriously considered undergoing surgery to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, Paul George soared for an alley-oop pass that was sailing out of bounds, extended his right arm as far as it could go to catch the ball and then hit Isaiah Hartenstein with a pass for a layup -- all in one motion.

George's elbow is feeling good again -- and it showed. He had 34 points, six assists and four steals in his return to the court to lift the Clippers to a stirring, come-from-behind 121-115 win over the Utah Jazz at Crypto.com Arena on Tuesday night.

George hit 5 of 7 shots, including 3 of 4 3-pointers, in the third quarter, when he erupted for 20 of his points to help the Clippers erase a 25-point deficit with 8:07 remaining in the frame. He made 6 of 9 3-pointers for the game.

It was exactly what the Clippers had been missing since George last played on Dec. 22.

"It's in the 90 percentile," George said of how strong his elbow is after letting it heal for much of the past three months. "But it's still part of the progression. The ligament will get stronger with the stress put on it ... but I feel good. It's no pain; there's nothing of that sort.

"It's more so just that muscle and my forearm getting stronger."

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

And George's timing could not have been any better. He returned to stop the Clippers' five-game losing streak while also leading yet another improbable comeback for LA. Ty Lue's team has the most 24-plus-point comeback wins in one season with four. They previously set the record with three coming in January alone.

Three of their come-from-behind wins this season were from 25 or more down, the most in the past 25 seasons. Utah had been an NBA-best 235-0 since 1996-97 when leading by 25 or more in the regular season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

For the Jazz, this was a bitter reminder of what happened last summer when the Clippers came back from 25 down at home to eliminate Utah in Game 6 in the second round of the playoffs.

Now the Clippers, who occupy the eighth spot in the Western Conference standings, are feeling a boost of confidence with their star guard back.

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

"Honestly, right after it happened, I was on the side of just getting surgery," George said. "And getting over it and getting it done now so I don't have to go into a summer rehabbing and healing and nursing an injury.

"I wanted to hit the ground running in the summertime, so immediately I wanted to get surgery."

But George said the doctor overseeing the injury told him that the ligament could heal and "attach itself back to the bone" with time off.

It was just over a month ago that George was seen shooting with his left hand before the All-Star break.

"It was actually cool because I got a ton of work with my left hand," George told ESPN's Malika Andrews after Tuesday's game. "I became a better player through this process because I had to use my left hand a lot more. I think it will show as the season goes on with passing and finishing and ballhandling.

"I just did a ton of work to 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 he then went through full practices and scrimmaged this week.

George said his experience of coming back from serious injuries such as his gruesome lower right leg fracture during a United States national basketball team scrimmage in 2014 helped him navigate the past three months.

"I mean, I just know what it takes," George said. "I know what it takes, the dedication, the commitment. It's more than just on the court; it's off the court. And so I've been here before, so I know how to attack a rehab."

When George hit consecutive 3-pointers late in the third quarter in front of the Clippers bench, Lue knew his star guard was back. And then there was his catch and pass to Hartenstein in the fourth quarter.

The Clippers are hoping for more help for the play-in game, as guard Norman Powell could return to practice again in a week or so if everything continues to progress with the fractured bone in his left foot.

"It changes for us big-time," Lue said of how George alters the complexion of the team heading toward the play-in. "Getting a perennial All-Star back, getting a defensive player, it just changes a lot for us."