LeBron's playoff debut triple-double carries Cavs

CLEVELAND (AP) -- LeBron James had an NBA playoff debut that was
simply Magical.

Showcasing his spectacular skills as a pro in the postseason for
the first time, James recorded a triple-double and brought the
Cleveland Cavaliers back to the playoffs in style with a 97-86 win
over the Washington Wizards on Saturday.

James finished with 32 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists,
becoming the first player since Magic Johnson to post a
triple-double in his first playoff game.

"It's a great class to be in," James said.

If Game 1 of his playoff resume was any indication, James may
one day be in a class by himself.

Over 48 minutes, the 21-year-old, who is battling a cold, did a
little of everything to help the Cavaliers land the first blow in
what could be a lengthy series between the Nos. 4 and 5 seeds in
the Eastern Conference.

As always, the pregame hype centered around James, who barely
missed the playoffs in his first two seasons. He hadn't been in
such a pressure-packed game since he was a high school senior, and
many wondered if he could handle the pressure.

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"He's played on big stages his whole life," Cavs forward Drew
Gooden said. "It's expected of him."

James is just the third player in history to get a triple-double
in his playoff debut. Johnson (13 points, 12 rebounds and 16
assists) did it for the Los Angeles Lakers on April 8, 1980, and
Johnny McCarthy (13 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists) had one for
St. Louis on March 16, 1960.

"Nothing he does surprises me anymore," Cavs center Zydrunas
Ilgauskas said. "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."

Cleveland's first game back in the playoffs since 1998 -- when
James was a seventh grader -- couldn't have gone much better.

James got plenty of help from his supporting cast as Donyell
Marshall added 19 points, Eric Snow 14 and Ilgauskas and Flip
Murray 10 apiece for the Cavs. Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday
night at Quicken Loans Arena.

The Wizards have some work to do before then. Not only do they
have to rethink their defensive strategy on James, who threw over
or drove around double teams, but Washington needs to work on its
free-throw and 3-point shooting.

The Wizards were only 25-of-36 from the 15-foot line and just
3-of-22 from long range.

Gilbert Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler, Washington's
usually reliable offensive trio that came in averaging 67.4 points
combined, scored 48 as Cleveland's defense made it tough for any of
them to get a good look at the basket.

"What hurt me most was my team not playing the way we are
supposed to play," Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. "They did. We

Arenas led Washington with 26 points, but he got 17 of them in
the fourth quarter when the Cavs were already up by double digits.
Arenas fouled out with 49 seconds left when he hacked Snow, who
used his thumb to show Washington's guard the way back to the

James got his 10th rebound with 22 seconds to go, prompting Cavs
fans into another chorus of "M-V-P! M-V-P!," a chant they started
early in the game when Cleveland's superstar helped an official
corral a stray balloon floating near the floor.

"I was going to let the ref get it, but figured that if I
grabbed it, maybe he'd give me a few more calls," James joked.

Cleveland was up by 14 at halftime, and James helped push the
Cavs' advantage to 17 after three with a memorable assist to
Murray. Driving the lane, James went into the air, turned his head
to the right and delivered a left-handed scoop underneath to
Murray, whose layup made it 74-57.

When the Wizards closed within 13 in the fourth, James isolated
Butler on the left side, blew past him and soared for a strong
layup to make it 89-74 with 4:44 remaining.

"He controlled the game," Wizards forward Jared Jeffries said.
"You could live with him getting 30 points, but what you don't
want is 11 rebounds and 11 assists."

James showed a bit of nervousness early on, shooting an airball
on his first jumper. But once he settled down, it was business as
usual. He scored 13 points with four assists and three rebounds in
the first quarter, helping the Cavs open a 31-20 lead.

"My first shot in my first All-Star game was an airball, too,"
James said.

With the score tied 18-all, James drained a 3-pointer from up
top and scored nine straight points. He then fed Marshall in the
right corner for a 3 as the Cavaliers ripped off 12 in a row and
closed the period with a 13-2 spurt.

Game notes
James had his choice of three new pairs of Nikes to wear in
his playoff debut. He selected white ones with large gold straps
across the tongue. James wrote "Brenda. R.I.P" on them, a salute
to a high school teammate's mother who died recently. ... The
Wizards were to return home after the game. "Being an afternoon
game, we can rest at home tonight and have a light practice
Sunday," Jordan said. "It's always better to be comfortable at
home." ... Wizards C Etan Thomas, who missed the final three
regular-season games with back spasms, played 7 minutes and scored
2 points.