Celtics playoff history: Boston faces end of an era, but Paul Pierce and Co. can go down swinging

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Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics might be facing their last postseason run together.

Histories run fluidly in the NBA, especially when committed franchises like the Boston Celtics do their part in building perennial contenders. The Celtics' fluid success has been in great part due to the presence of Paul Pierce, who has been on the Celtics since his rookie season in 1998-99.

This past season, it appeared general manager Danny Ainge was questioning a rebuild. Ray Allen left in the offseason to sign with the rival Miami Heat, and Rajon Rondo led a string of season-ending injuries in Boston. Pierce and Kevin Garnett remained on a roster tossed together by necessity rather than blueprint, but Doc Rivers got enough out of it to reach the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.

The question now is whether the Celtics will make the same noise this postseason as they have in the last five. During that time, the Celtics have never done less than make the Eastern Conference semifinals.

They started off the current streak in 2008, the first year of having the Big Three of Pierce, Garnett and Allen. After acquiring Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves and Allen from the Seattle Sonics before that season, Boston wasted no time. They pushed through two seven-game series against the Hawks and Cavaliers, then won a conference finals series in six games against the Detroit Pistons.

That set the Celtics up for a six-game series victory in the NBA Finals against the long-time rival Los Angeles Lakers.

In 2009, the Celtics lost in the second round of the playoffs to Dwight Howard's Orlando Magic, which eventually became the Eastern Conference Champions.

Boston would go through the Miami Heat, LeBron James' Cavaliers and then earn redemption against the Magic in 2010. The Lakers, however, returned the favor from the 2008 NBA Finals and won the 2010 rematch in seven games.

But the Celtics, already in their primes during the 2008 title run, are at a crossroads this year. Rumors swirled that Ainge was about to pull the trigger on a rebuild, so that makes the direction of the team quite cloudy as this summer approaches. Pierce and Garnett could be burning out as stars, and the 2013 postseason might as well act as a final hoorah.

The revamped Heat and their Big Three have sent the Celtics out of postseason play in the last two offseasons.

Still, Pierce and Garnett can savor the moment.

During the 2006 and 2007 seasons before the Big Three era, Pierce had little help, and the Celtics missed out on the postseason. But he's toiled away during this current six-year playoff streak and during that drought, not to mention a four-year playoff run from 2002-05 with Antoine Walker as his sidekick. All that came after he spent the first three years of his career building himself into a future Hall of Famer.

There's a chance that the fluidity of Pierce's growth -- and stability in the franchise in general -- is wiped away this offseason.

But despite the diluted roster, the Celtics' recent history won't be forgotten by Pierce, Garnett and Rivers during the 2013 playoffs.

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