Portis, Zipser off to a good starts as Bulls try to evaluate young players

This wasn't how the game ended, but when Klay Thompson missed Golden State's 29th 3-point attempt of the night, Bobby Portis grabbed the defensive rebound and took off down the court in an attempt to run some clock.

Portis was chased and eventually caught by Draymond Green, then hit 2 free throws with 15 seconds left to help seal the Bulls' 94-87 victory on Thursday at the United Center.

Normally, Portis' face is a picture of almost comic intensity. When being chased by Green, he wore a big smile, knowing his best game of the season would end in victory.

"I'm always amped for every game, every time I step out there," Portis said in the locker room. "Not just because it was the Warriors. It's a big confidence boost for us young guys to go out there and help the team win."

That's what the finishing stretch is about for the Bulls - trying to cement a playoff spot and figuring out which of their young players are worth keeping.

Portis often laughs at his nickname, "Crazy Eyes." On Thursday, he opened some eyes with 17 points and 13 rebounds against the team with the NBA's best record. The Bulls were also a plus-21 while Portis was on the floor, easily the best mark of any player in this contest.

"I thought Bobby was awesome. He was really in a great rhythm," coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was fighting their guys on the glass, he was fighting our guys on the glass. He was just out there trying to make a big impact on the game.

"That's who Bobby Portis is. He's out there playing winning basketball right now and it's great to see."

Portis' limited playing time early this season might have prepared him for this moment, because he seems to be playing with a sense of urgency. Here's been making things happen the last few games, and knocking down some 3-pointers along the way. Portis is 6-for-13 from behind the arc since Taj Gibson was traded to Oklahoma City.

"We've always said, 'Your time's going to come. You don't know when and you don't know where,'" Jimmy Butler said. "He's ready. He's constantly in the gym. That's what we need from him."

So far, so good for Portis. But the key to becoming a quality NBA player is doing it every night, or at least 90 percent of the time. One good game every three weeks won't cut it.

With that in mind, here's a rundown of the Bulls' other young candidates:

Paul Zipser: After missing three weeks with an ankle injury, Hoiberg threw him right back in the lineup and Zipser delivered with 9 points, including a huge 3-pointer with 1:41 left.

Zipser, a rookie from Germany, is a lot like Cristiano Felicio in that he has a maturity to his game. He plays like he knows what he's supposed to be doing on the floor and gets it done most of the time.

Zipser also fits into Hoiberg's big, mobile lineup. The Bulls closed the game with Butler, Zipser, Portis, Felicio and Dwyane Wade on the floor, allowing them to switch on most every screen and not end up in a bad matchup.

Cameron Payne: He seemed a little more comfortable Thursday, but it will take some time before he's ready for the starting lineup. After the trade with the Thunder, Payne is clearly being counted on as the point guard of the future, so his playing time will continue to rise.

Denzel Valentine: His 3-point shot looks good, but he didn't make any against Golden State and he hasn't brought much else to the table yet.

Jerian Grant: He's been steady, but hasn't earned significant minutes, even when he starts at the point. He needs to improve on defense and keep hitting outside shots to make himself more valuable.

Michael Carter-Williams: He's been out with a knee injury, and with Payne on board, it looks like he won't get back in the rotation unless someone gets sidelined.

Get the latest Bulls news via Twitter by following @McGrawDHBulls.

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Scouting report

Bulls vs. Los Angeles Clippers at the United Center, 7:30 p.m.

TV: ABC • Radio: WLS 890-AM

Outlook: The Clippers are healthy again, but lost three of four heading into Friday's game in Milwaukee. PG Chris Paul returned Feb. 24 after missing five weeks with a thumb injury. He averaged 16 points and 11 assists in his first three games back, but didn't shoot well. PF Blake Griffin, who missed 20 games earlier this season, is the team's top scorer at 22.2 points. SG J.J. Redick is at 14.9 ppg, with SG Austin Rivers contributing 12.4. C DeAndre Jordan ranks third in the league with 13.6 rebounds and his free-throw percentage has improved to 50 percent. The Bulls led most of the way, but lost to the Clippers in L.A. 102-95 on Nov. 19, despite 28 points from Dwyane Wade.

Next: Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Monday, 6:30 p.m.

- Mike McGraw

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