CHICAGO (AP) With a promising young core, the Oklahoma City Thunder have their sights set on the playoffs.

They're off to a good start.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 31 points and Oklahoma City beat the Chicago Bulls 124-104 in their season opener Wednesday night.

The Thunder are looking for more after getting knocked out in the play-in tournament last season, and performances like this one will do the job.

“I think everybody on the team wants to grow and kind of take on these new experiences together,” Rookie of the Year runner-up Jalen Williams said. “And then kind of from there, the sky's the limit for the team. I think as long as we're willing to learn and grow as a team and understand what we like to do, I think we'll be pretty good."

Fourth in the NBA in scoring last season, Gilgeous-Alexander keyed a 12-0 run late in the third quarter that broke open a one-point game. He also had 10 of Oklahoma City's 30 assists.

Williams and Josh Giddey each scored 16 for the Thunder.

Chet Holmgren had 11 points in his long-awaited NBA debut. Selected with the No. 2 pick in the 2022 draft, the 7-foot-1 forward/center from Gonzaga missed last season because of a foot injury.

Holmgren said he felt “excitement” and “a little bit of anxiousness” leading up to the game.

“Knowing that eventually the ball is gonna tip up, and all day you're just kind of waiting for that moment,” he added. “But a lot of excitement.”

All five starters hit two 3-pointers while attempting at least three, and the Thunder made 19 of 39 from beyond the arc. Led by Isaiah Joe's 14 points, Oklahoma City’s reserves outscored Chicago’s 42-34.

“For the majority of the game, we played the right way, offensively,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “We have guys that are unselfish and know how to play basketball. With time, you only get better at that - playing the right way, sustaining it for 48 minutes.”

DeMar DeRozan scored 20 for the Bulls, who decided to have a players meeting after the game.

“Very constructive,” Nikola Vucevic said. “I think it was really good for us that we had those. I think it was needed. It was just regular discussions of what needs to be done. A lot of guys said a lot of good things, things that needed to be said. I think we can really use this to learn and change some things that we need to change. There was nothing crazy, no fighting and none of that. It's really constructive, I think.”

Zach LaVine scored all of his 16 points in the second half. He finished 4 of 16 from the field after missing all five shots while committing four turnovers and three fouls through the first two quarters.

Coby White scored 15, and Vucevic added 11 points and nine rebounds.

Gilgeous-Alexander had seven points in a 12-0 run late in the third quarter. He finished it with a reverse layup to make it 91-78. Cason Wallace nailed a pull-up jumper and a 3-pointer during the spurt.

It was 91-84 early in the fourth before the Thunder reeled off 11 straight points. Joe made back-to-back 3s and - after Wallace connected from beyond the arc - scored on a layup to make it 102-84 with about 10 minutes remaining.

Gilgeous-Alexander scored 17 and Williams added 14 points as Oklahoma City grabbed a 61-55 halftime lead.

The Thunder led 50-49 late in the second quarter when the Bulls' Torrey Craig hit the side of the backboard on a wide-open corner 3. Giddey made a layup and a 3, and after a free throw by White, Holmgren nailed a 3 to make it an eight-point game with about a minute left in the half.

The Bulls' Andre Drummond had a poster-worthy dunk over Holmgren in the second quarter and made him go down to his knees moments later with a wicked crossover on a fast-break layup.


Thunder: Visit the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday.

Bulls: Host the Toronto Raptors on Friday.



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