With Miami taking a commanding 3-1 lead over the Nets last night, and the Pacers having a chance to land the KO blow on Washington, we're just two wins away from an Eastern Conference Finals rematch.

It's been a circuitous road for the Pacers, who roared out to a 33-7 start, but then began a slide in February which resulted in them finishing the regular season 23-19, and facing a 3-2 hole against the 38-win Hawks.  Here are the four big hurdles they've jumped over since then:

OFF-COURT DISTRACTIONS

Just a week before his second All-Star Game appearance, news broke that Paul George may have impregnated a Miami stripper.  His game, and the Pacers' season started to go south shortly thereafter.  There were also unsubstantiated rumors involving Roy Hibbert's ex-fiancee and <insert just about any Pacers' teammate here>.  The players - notably Paul George - shot those rumors down.

POOR ACQUISITIONS

On paper, it appeared that Larry Bird was doing the right thing in taking a flyer on former All-Star Andrew Bynum, and trading for 2010 #2 pick Evan Turner in February. Neither of those players had a positive impact as Bynum's knees held up for only two games, and Turner has been buried on a bad Pacers' bench. There were questions about both harming team chemistry, including a practice scuffle between Turner and Lance Stephenson just before the playoffs began.

ON THE BRINK (No, really...)

Following a blowout Game 5 First Round loss, the Pacers returned to Atlanta facing elimination.  At the three-minute mark of Game 6, Indiana found themselves trailing 84-79.  In a season-saving 12-1 run sparked by David West, the Blue and Gold staved off elimination and won Game 7 going away.  It could be the Travis Best Moment of the 2013-14 season.

ROY'S STRUGGLES

In twelve games from April 6th to May 5th, Hibbert went scoreless five times. He shot 26% from the field, averaging an embarrassing 3.8 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in that span.  In the three games since then, Roy has reverted to his All-Star form, and the Pacers are perfect during his individual surge.

There has been slander ("Selfish Dudes"), scandal, and struggle.  There have been strippers, GQ cover shoots, fishing trips, and fist fights.  It's all made for great drama, and more importantly for us, great radio.  However, at the end of the day, the Pacers are on the cusp of returning to the East Finals to take on the rival Heat - exactly the place where we thought they'd be.

DS