In a loss, Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers can’t keep up with the Celtics.

The last time the Clippers faced Boston, in a victory that finally outlined their considerable potential, the Celtics didn’t have the size to keep the Clippers out of the paint.

Needing late baskets to complete a comeback Thursday, the Clippers were denied at the rim, twice, in the final moments.

After a jumper by Kawhi Leonard cut the lead to three with 62 seconds left, a defensive stop by the Clippers set up Paul George to dribble into the lane on the other end, the volume rapidly rushing out of TD Garden. Derrick White, a guard, met George as he rose and stuffed George’s shot.

Then with two seconds left, Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. tried a layup with the Clippers down five — a shot rejected by Al Horford, a loss sealed.

The Clippers fell to 21-16 after a 116-110 loss to Boston.

Leonard scored 26 points and George added 24 for the Clippers, who finish their five-game road trip Saturday in Indiana.

With each roster at full strength, this matchup presented itself as a late-December preview of what might materialize in early June.

The Clippers stayed fully healthy for half a quarter.

An elbow from Celtics guard Derrick White crashed into Reggie Jackson’s nose, opening a bleeding wound. When the play didn’t result in a foul on White, Jackson confronted lead official Scott Foster before being restrained by teammates and earned a technical in the process. When he returned, it was with a bandage on his nose.

Clippers forward Norman Powell takes a three-point shot in front of Boston Celtics guard Payton Pritchard during the first half.

(Charles Krupa / Associated Press)

Then, chasing a series of Boston passes that whipped the ball around the perimeter for a three-pointer late in the first quarter, Nicolas Batum rolled his left ankle. The only Clipper to have appeared in every game this season, Batum returned from the locker room with extra tape and tested the ankle’s viability during a halftime warmup but didn’t play again until the final two minutes of the third quarter following foul trouble to starting center Ivica Zubac.

Unlike during the Clippers’ 20-point win three weeks earlier, Celtics big men Robert Williams and Al Horford both played — cutting off the avenues to the paint the Clippers took advantage against when Blake Griffin started at center. George took one shot inside the paint in his first 17 minutes. Leonard had one paint shot in the first quarter and one true rim attempt in his 18 first-half minutes. After the 6-foot-9 Williams checked in late in the first half, reuniting him in a lineup with the 6-9 Horford, the Clippers didn’t score a field goal for two minutes.

It was their emphasis to consistently attack the rim out of a timeout, facing a 13-point deficit that was their largest of the night, that began a surge that carried into the second half, an 11-point halftime deficit transformed into a one-point lead after George’s three-pointer midway through the third quarter.

Coach Tyronn Lue turned to his starters for much of the night, even plugging Jackson back into the lineup with 6:46 to play, trailing by three, even though one of Jackson’s ankles had been rolled on top of by a Celtic earlier in the game. The fall left Jackson with a considerable limp. The rotation choices meant Luke Kennard played 16 minutes — his last stint ending when the Celtics continually targeted him on defense, clearly seeing his matchup as one on which they could score, usually with Jaylen Brown. Terance Mann also played five minutes, none after halftime.

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