NBA playoffs 2017: Bracket predictions, series picks for first-round matchups

The 2017 NBA playoffs tip off Saturday, and we have picks and predictions for each first-round matchup of the playoff bracket.

The Warriors once again enterthe NBA playoffs as the odds-on favoriteto reachthe Finals, but there are some teams ready to unseat the defending Western Conference champions.

MORE: Live NBA scores, playoff schedule

Parity is the name of the game in the Eastern Conference bracket. LeBron James and the Cavaliers lost their No. 1 seed to the Celtics, but the defending champs are still considered favorites to make the Finals.

Let's take a look at the full NBA playoff bracket, and our playoff picks and predictions for each first-round matchup.

NBA playoff bracket 2017

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BRACKET BREAKDOWN: East | West

NBA playoff predictions: Eastern Conference

Celtics (1) 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
Playoff 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 myriad 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
Playoff 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 housemoney 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
PlayoffPrediction: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
PlayoffPrediction:Wizards in six

MORE PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS: East| West

NBA playoff predictions: Western Conference

Warriors (1)vs. Trail Blazers (8)

The Warriors enter the playoffs having won 15 of their last 16. That sort of dominance is exactly what teams should strive for heading into the playoffs, and Golden State has Kevin Durant back after a knee injury cost him all of March.

Stephen Curry is still the leader of this team, averaging 25.3 points per game, but he has more offensive help this season. Defensively, Golden State can still be a bit soft at times. Durant's length mixed with physicality off the bench have helped fix that problem; however, Curry and company could get knocked around a bit by Portland's stronger guards.

Damian Lillard, for some reason, predictedthe Trail Blazers would win this series in six games. While he might be good enough to help Portland win a game or two, it's highly unlikely Lillard is playing in a second series this postseason.

Regular-season series:Warriors, 4-0
Playoff Prediction:Warriors in four

MORE:Odds towin 2017 NBA championship| First-round series odds

Spurs (2) vs. Grizzlies (7)

Sputtering a bit down the stretch, San Antonio lost four out of its last five, including three straight. It seems like age is finally going to take its toll on this team every year, yet every year the Spursare contenders.

Kawhi Leonard took another step towardstardom this season by averaging 25.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. LaMarcus Aldridge (17.3 ppg) struggled at times, but he is rounding back into form at the right time.

The Grizzlies have not fared any better as of late. They enter the playoffs having lost five ofsix. The three-headed attack of Mike Conley, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol lost its bite a bit this season. Memphis, however, is very deep.

Regular-season series:Tied, 2-2
PlayoffPrediction:Spurs in six

Rockets (3) vs. Thunder (6)

Now we're talking. This is what an intriguing first-round matchup looks like. Two explosive teams with championship aspirations will clash earlier than they probably would have hoped, but the winner of this series can make a big run.

Russell Westbrook entered the record book withhis legendary season. Not only did he pass Oscar Robertson for most triple-doubles in a season, but he also averaged a triple-double (31.6 ppg., 10.7 rpg., 10.4 apg.). He needs help from Victor Oladipo and Enes Kanter to win this series, though.

James Harden is ready to lead Houston past his former team after averaging 29.1 points, 11.2 assists and 8.1 rebounds per game. The Rockets were just 4-5 in their last nine games, but they have an explosive backcourt and a number of versatile bodies in the paint.

Regular-season series:Rockets, 3-1
PlayoffPrediction:Thunder in seven

Clippers (4) vs. Jazz (5)

The Clippers enter the playoffs riding a seven-game winning streak thanks to a balanced scoring attack that features six players averaging at least 12 points per game. Chris Paul is still the heart and soul of the team, but both he and Blake Griffin missed time with injuries this season.

DeAndre Jordan isa load in the paint (12.7 ppg, 13.8 rpg), and it seemed like teams stopped hacking him as soon as he passed halfcourt.

Speaking of balanced scoring, Utah features 11 players averaging at least 6.2 points per game.Gordon Hayward (21.9 ppg) is the star, but a number of players can rise up and win games for the underrated Jazz.

Regular-season series:Clippers, 3-1
PlayoffPrediction:Clippers in six

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