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Protests in Sacramento overshadow Celtics-Kings game

By Rick Hurd, The Sports Xchange
Al Horford and the Boston Celtics visit the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. Photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/99dd1c881d35a7c6284afdb2425cda20/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Al Horford and the Boston Celtics visit the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. Photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Normally, an appearance in Sacramento by one of the Eastern Conference's elite teams and one of the NBA's most tradition-laden franchises would rank as one of the highlights in another losing season for the host Kings.

These are anything but normal days in the capital of California.

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Against the backdrop of protests stemming from the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black man, the Kings (24-49) will welcome the Boston Celtics (48-23) to the Golden 1 Center for an afternoon game Sunday. Nobody's entirely sure what to expect in the first game to be held since the protests forced the home team to play in an intimate setting Thursday.

Protesters grew a bit volatile Friday night, but there was calm Saturday afternoon. Sunday's tip-off is at 3 p.m.

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Sacramento beat the Atlanta Hawks 105-90 on Thursday in front of a tiny crowd (no official total was given, and the estimated total put the crowd below 2,000), that already was in the arena before protesters blocked others from entering. The Kings have said they'll honor requests for refunds from those who didn't get in.

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The protesters' anger stems from the police shooting death of 22-year-old Stephon Clark, who was killed in his grandparents' backyard March 18 after police responded to calls of a burglary in the area. The aftermath has drawn such an impassioned response that, according to the Sacramento Bee, former Kings players DeMarcus Cousins and Matt Barnes offered to pay for Clark's funeral.

The Kings also have expressed support for Clark's family and the protesters, with owner Vivek Ranadive addressing the crowd after the win over the Hawks and telling them his team "recognize(s) people's abilities to protest peacefully, and we respect that," before adding that "we recognize that it is just not business as usual."

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"If I didn't have a job to do," Kings forward Garrett Temple told reporters on Thursday, "I'd probably be out there with them."

Temple won't play against Boston because of a sprained left ankle, the second straight game he'll miss because of the injury. Center Zach Randolph also is questionable after missing Thursday's game with gastroenteritis.

Sacramento will be trying to win back-to-back games for only the fifth time all season.

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The Celtics arrive after a 105-100 victory in Portland on Friday during which they outscored the Trail Blazers 38-23 in the fourth quarter. Marcus Morris scored a season-high 30 points as Boston played without Kyrie Irving again.

Irving will miss his sixth straight game Sunday. He underwent surgery to remove a tension wire in his left knee and won't return for at least another three weeks. The procedure is intended to reduce tension in the knee.

Despite being without him and forward Jaylen Brown (concussion), the Celtics have won three of four and are nearly assured of finishing second in the East.

Brown could return from his six-game absence. According to the Boston Globe, he took part in a Friday shootaround and reported no lingering symptoms.

"It's tough, but it's an opportunity for other guys to step up, and guys are really taking advantage," Celtics forward Al Horford told the Globe. "We're trying to move forward."

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