Originally posted on Crossover Chronicles  |  Last updated 5/1/12

Kevin Garnett has a way of getting under his opponent's skin. It is part of his psychological warfare on his opponents. It has what has made him great and what has made him hated.

Ivan Johnson became a household name (sort of) after a big game on national TV. The TNT crew loved his tenacity and grit and the energy he brought to the game. Johnson is not someone who is going to score very many points, but, like Garnett in a lot of ways, he is not going to back down from anyone. And he is going to bring a lot of energy for his team.

Both Garnett and Johnson have reputations. It is what dominated the conversation on TNT before the game. Would Kevin Garnett get under the temperamental and volatile Johnson's skin? To which Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith retorted, you don't mess with "Ivan the Terrible."

So far, the two players seem to have reached a detente before Tuesday night's Game Two. But Johnson is completely aware of Garnett's tactic and what he is trying to do:

"Garnett, he's a dirty player," Johnson told The Boston Herald. "He gives me a lot of elbows, and I can handle that. I was prepared for that. 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. I can handle it. I can take some hits. I try not to (give hits) because I'm usually the one that gets caught."

Indeed, Johnson does have a bit of a checkered past after behavior issues followed him around and led to his expulsion from the Chinese Basketball Association. But Johnson has found his niche in Atlanta. And he has become an important part of a Hawks bench that gave the Celtics a lot of issues in Game One.

Johnson is going to be dealing with Garnett and trying to win that tug of war in the post. The idea that Garnett is a dirty player is not a new one.

In the April 30 issue of Sports Illustrated, Garnett came in second in a player poll asking which player was the dirtiest in the NBA, garnering nine percent of the vote. According to the report from SI, Garnett was also put ont he list of most annoying players in the NBA.

Sometimes it certainly seems that Garnett's bark is worse than his bight. He has slowed some in age and without the play to back up his never-ending intensity, you can see why he might get annoying and resort to "dirty tricks."

Johnson, who is known for having a short temper and for playing on the edge, has to keep his composure. Part of what Garnett is trying to do is cost the Hawks some points. Johnson cannot get drawn into that.

For now, at least, he plans to do that and continue to take whatever tricks Garnett tries to pull on him.

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This article first appeared on Crossover Chronicles and was syndicated with permission.

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