NBA playoff predictions: Picking winners in Eastern Conference first round

Picking the winners in the NBA's Eastern Conference playoff series.

The 2016-17 NBA regular season ended Wednesday night and we have playoff predictions for each Eastern Conference series.

Parity is the name of the game in the East. LeBron James and the Cavaliers lost their No. 1 seed, but the defending champs are still considered favorites.

Let's take a look at our predictions for each Eastern Conference first-round matchupin theNBAplayoffs.

NBA playoff bracket: Eastern Conference

Celtics (1-seed) vs. Bulls (8)

While some teams were resting their stars down the stretch (Cleveland), the Celtics fought hard to earn the top seed in the East. Led by All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, Boston boasts one of the most versatile lineups in the NBA.

Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game this season while hitting 46 percent of his shots. Quick off the dribble and dangerous from beyond the arc, Thomas has the talent and passion to lead this Celtics team deep into the postseason.

But let's not forget the Bulls. Winners of seven of their last nine games to squeak into the playoffs, they boast a dangerous squad playing its best basketball. The Bulls have looked like a new team since inserting Rajon Rondo into the starting lineup, and Jimmy Butler averaged 23.9 points per game.

Regular season series: Tied, 2-2

Prediction: Celtics in seven

Cavaliers (2) vs. Pacers (7)

It's hard to get an accurate representation of what the Cavs will look like in the playoffs this year due to their propensity to rest starters on a semi-regular basis. The "Big Three" of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are all healthy and ready to lead this team back to another Finals, but they need to rediscover their chemistry.

Love is the X-factor for Cleveland. James and Irving can score when needed, but Love's presence in the paint (19.0 points, 11.1 assists per game) will be important against physical teams.

Despite making a myriad of offseason moves, the Pacers looked sluggish to begin the season. They have since bounced back, led by Paul George's 23.7 points per game. Myles Turner (14.5 ppg) and Jeff Teague (15.3 ppg) are perfect complementary pieces to George's well-rounded game.

Regular season series: Cavaliers, 3-1

Prediction: Cavaliers in five

Raptors (3) vs. Bucks (6)

Kyle Lowry is back from a wrist injury, which means Toronto's All-Star backcourt duo of Lowry and DeMar DeRozan is ready to terrorize opponents in the playoffs. DeRozan averaged 27.3 points this season, fifth-best in the league.

The Raptors might be a bit underrated heading into the playoffs. They haven't played many games with all of their pieces together. This is a deep team that has size, good guards and defensive stoppers.

Milwaukee is sort of playing with house's money after losing Jabari Parker to another major knee injury this winter. Giannis Antetokounmpo stepped up by averaging 22.9points and 8.8 rebounds per game while making his first All-Star team. This team may not have enough depth to win a playoff series — yet.

Regular season series: Raptors, 3-1

Prediction: Raptors in five

Wizards (4) vs. Hawks (5)

The Wizards were streaky to end the regular season, putting together a couple of four-plus-game winning streaks, but also losing five of their last eight games. Chemistry is always a question with this squad. John Wall and Bradley Beal — the team's two best players and backcourt mates — don't seem to like each other all that much.

Regardless, Washington has the explosive talent to cause trouble in the East this season. Shooters Otto Porter Jr. andBojan Bogdanovic could be the Wizards' difference makers in this series.

The Hawks won four out of their last five regular-season games. They picked up two wins against the Cavs and one win against the Celtics during that stretch.Dennis Schroder will make or break this balanced team. He averaged 17.9 points, but also turned the ball over 3.3 times per game.

Regular season series: Wizards, 3-1

Prediction: Wizards in six

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