By Evans Clinchy
April 30, 2012

The Atlanta Hawks enter this first-round playoff series with the Boston Celtics considered underdogs by many, but an 83-74 win in Sunday night's Game 1 gave them a little confidence. So much, in fact, that Hawks rookie Ivan Johnson isn't afraid to open his mouth and bash opposing big man Kevin Garnett, a future Hall of Famer.

“Garnett, he’s a dirty player,” Johnson told Dan Duggan of the Boston Herald. “He gives me a lot of elbows and I can handle that.”

Johnson has always had a flare for the controversial -- after playing for four different college teams and going undrafted in 2007 out of Cal State San Bernardino, he bounced around between the D-League, South Korea, Puerto Rico and China before finally catching on with the Hawks. Johnson, who turned 28 earlier this month, is perhaps best known for being banned for life from the Korean Basketball League in 2010 -- he made an obscene gesture at a referee.

"I was prepared for that," Johnson said of Garnett's alleged dirtiness. "I already knew how KG was going to come at me. They’re a whole bunch of mess-talkers.

"I know we’re not going to fight on the court," he added. "I can handle it. I can take some hits. I try not to [give hits] because I’m usually the one that gets caught."

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