MINNEAPOLIS — Friends are often more ruthless and more willing to needle a person than anyone else. It’s often those who are closest to a person who are able to get under someone’s skin.

When Rudy Gobert walked to the free throw line on Friday night with 34.3 seconds left in overtime and a chance to tie the game for the Minnesota Timberwolves against the Utah Jazz, it was his friends and former teammates who made a meal of the moment.

Jordan Clarkson walked in front of Gobert and smiled at the Frenchman before he started clapping and continuing to talk.

“Had to give Rudy a little bit of (expletive),” Clarkson said with a laugh after the Jazz went on to win, 132-126. “Just a little.”

Clarkson called Gobert his “brother” and said that they’re close friends, but that didn’t stop Clarkson from trying to gain a competitive advantage by taunting the big man before critical free throws.

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Even the way Gobert ended up on the charity stripe was the result of a friend stepping in the way, or rather jumping in the way, and sacrificing his body.

Mike Conley, who had visited with Gobert the night before the game, saw Gobert running straight toward the basket with the chance for a wide open dunk that would have tied the game.

When Conley flew over to contest the shot, his much smaller frame was pushed pretty hard by the much-larger Gobert, and Conley landed hard.

The whole Jazz bench, including Jazz head coach Will Hardy, held its collective breath, hoping that Conley would get up and be OK.

He did, and he was.

“It looked like he was running down to the rim free, and I was the closest guy,” Conley said. “I didn’t plan on having to fly over there and do all that.

“I just tried and wrap him up as quick as I could and hope that he missed on the free throw line.”

That’s where Clarkson came in.

The Jazz had just gotten lucky with Gobert missing what could have been an easy dunk if he’d decided to use his full strength over the top of Conley. Now Gobert was heading to the free throw line, and the Jazz had fought all night for this game.

They were going to take any edge they could find.

After the antics from Clarkson, who was joined in on the trash talk by Conley and Malik Beasley, Gobert missed both free throws.

“We needed those, Rudy. Thank you,” Clarkson said.” I love you, but I’ll take those two.”

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Clarkson was a big part of the Jazz being in the game after the Timberwolves had led by as many as 17 earlier in the night. He finished with 29 points including some timely 3-pointers and clutch playmaking.

But it was the Conley foul that truly saved the Jazz.

“Winning plays come in a variety of packages throughout an NBA season,” Hardy said. “That foul was probably the play that won us the game, not letting Gobert just dunk the ball.

“Mike put his body on the line and scared us all for a second there with the way he fell, but you know, that’s Mike. He wants to win.”

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