"LeBron was great," said Cleveland coach Mike Brown. "He never ceases to amaze me. The things that he does offensively just blow you away. He does it in the flow of the game, which is what makes him special."
James poured in 32 points, pulled down 11 rebounds and dished out 11 assists for the fourth-seeded Cavaliers, who are in the playoffs for the first time since the 1998 campaign. Donyell Marshall added 19 points off the bench for Cleveland while Eric Snow contributed 14 points in the win.
"We just have to focus and concentrate on game two," said Snow after the win. "This is just one game. There are going to be highs and lows. We just have to focus and concentrate on the next game."
Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Flip Murray each had 10 points apiece for the Cavaliers.
"We wanted to come out and get this first game," said Murray. "That was our main focus coming in to the game. Now we have to get back to practice and come out and get game two."
Gilbert Arenas netted 26 points and pulled down six boards for the fifth- seeded Wizards but was just 7-of-20 from the floor. Jared Jeffries recorded 15 points for Washington, which is making its second straight playoff appearance. Antonio Daniels had 14 off the bench.
"They were hyped," said Arenas. "They came out with energy. We did not play Wizards basketball. We have to limit what he (James) does to win this series."
Cleveland opened the second half with a 14-point advantage and continued to pad its cushion in the first half of the third quarter. After James knocked in 1-of-2 from the charity stripe, with 7:07 left, the Cavs had their largest lead, 60-41.
Washington tried to claw back with a 9-2 burst over the next three minutes. Daniels' jumper capped the run and made it 62-50.
But, the Cavaliers responded and closed the quarter strongly. Murray's layup closed the scoring in the quarter with Cleveland on top, 74-57.
The Wizards failed to make a serious push in the fourth quarter. Arenas' driving dunk, with 10:11 left in the game, brought Washington to within 12 points, 76-64, but Cleveland had the answer.
In the next 1 1/2 minutes, Marshall connected on back-to-back buckets, a jump hook and a slam, to put the Cavs firmly back in control, 80-64.
Cleveland continued to hold Washington at arm's length heading to the final minutes. James' driving lay-in, with 2:16 left, made it 95-81 and the Cavs coasted to the finish line from there.
The Cavaliers exploded with a 12-0 run late in the opening frame that turned a tie game into a 30-18 advantage. James scored the first nine points of the flurry and dished off to a wide open Marshall for a long three to cap things.
Arenas finally stopped the bleeding with a running jumper but Cleveland still managed to take a 31-20 lead after the first 12 minutes.
The Cavs extended the lead and took a 50-36 edge into the locker room. James had 19 to pace Cleveland at intermission while Jeffries had 11 for the Wizards.
Game 2 of the series will be played on Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
James was the first NBA player since Magic Johnson to record a triple-double in his first playoff game...This was the 50th time this season that James has scored 30-plus points in a game...Cleveland dominated the boards with a 52-36 edge...In the 2005-06 regular season series between Cleveland and Washington, the Wizards took three of the four contests.