PLAYOFF SERIES: Eastern Conference first round; Cavaliers lead 1-0.
James looks to lead Cleveland to a 2-0 series lead when the Cavaliers take on the Washington Wizards at Quicken Loans Arena.
James had 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in Cleveland’s 97-86 win over the Wizards on Saturday, becoming the just third player to post a triple-double in his first playoff game. He joined Johnny McCarthy, who did it for the St. Louis Hawks in 1960, and Magic Johnson, who had his with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1980.
“It’s a great class to be in,” said James, who battled a cold during the game.
James averaged 31.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 6.6 assists during the regular season and carried his spectacular play into his first career postseason appearance.
“Nothing he does surprises me anymore,” said Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had 10 points and six rebounds Saturday. “He’s just a terrific player. He’s a tremendous luxury to have, knowing he can go out there any time and put up numbers like that.”
The Wizards tried to hold those numbers down by forcing James to dribble to his left and double-teaming him at times, but that only served to increase the production of James’ teammates. Reserve Donyell Marshall scored 19 points, Eric Snow had 14 and Flip Murray added 10 for the Cavs, who outrebounded Washington 52-36.
“It’s up to me to read the defense and try to make all my teammates do well,” James said. “I always like to pass. For one, you get two ‘oohs’ on the play—one on the pass and one on the bucket.”
The home crowd had a lot to cheer about as Cleveland won its 12th straight at Quicken Loans Arena. The Cavaliers, making their first playoff appearance since 1998, have advanced beyond the first round only three times in their 13 postseasons.
Washington’s third playoff appearance in the last 18 seasons got off to a rocky start, which doesn’t bode well for its hopes of advancing. The Wizards are 1-8 in the last nine playoff series in which they lost the first game.
Gilbert Arenas scored 26 points and shot 11-of-13 from the free-throw line Saturday, while Jared Jeffries scored 15 points and reserve Antonio Daniels had 14. However, starting forwards Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, who averaged a combined 38.1 points during the regular season, totaled just 22.
“What hurt me most was my team not playing the way we are supposed to play,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “They did. We didn’t.”
The Wizards shot 3-of-22 from 3-point range (13.6 percent), their worst mark of the season, as their three-game winning streak against Cleveland was snapped.
The series shifts to the Verizon Center for Games 3 and 4.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Wizards - 5th seed. Cavaliers - 4th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Wizards - Arenas, 26 ppg; Jamison, 7 rpg; Daniels, 6 apg. Cavaliers - James, 32 ppg, 11 rpg and 11 apg.