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Kings fans inside locked-up arena for 'bizarre' game: 'Crowd size of a high school'

The Kings told some fans hoping to gain entrance to Thursday's game at Golden 1 Center to leave for safety reasons, but a few lingered, peering through locked doors at halftime. For those who arrived early enough to enter, it was a game that will be remembered more for what happened outside the arena.

Thursday's tipoff against the Atlanta Hawks was delayed by about 20 minutes as protesters blocked the entrances, demonstrating against the shooting death of Stephon Clark by Sacramento Police officers Sunday night.

The Kings won the sparsely-attended game, 105-90.

The team allowed all in attendance to sit in the lower bowl, and free food and non-alcoholic drinks were provided.

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Protesters prevented ticket holders from entering the game, leaving many empty seats. Jose Luis Villegas

"It's weird," said season-ticket holder David Stauffer. "I've been texting my friends that I've been watching an NBA game with a crowd the size of a high school basketball game. It's both surreal and bizarre, on top of the fact they're trying to accommodate people with food and drinks."

Stauffer arrived at about 6:15 p.m., just in time to get into the game.

Diego Silva was able to get into the arena around 7:15 p.m. because he works at The Sawyer, the hotel adjacent to the arena that has an alternate entrance.

He said he never felt unsafe and understood the frustration of protesters. He also empathized with fans, especially children who might have been trying to attend their first NBA game.

"I'm all in support of what's going on because you never want to see injustices happen to anybody," Silva said. "But at the same time I don't know why they chose the Kings' stadium. ... There were a lot of kids who were excited to be here that couldn't get into the game, and I guess you can say my frustration comes from that."

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Protesters prevented ticket holders from entering the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks game Thursday, March 22, 2018 at Golden 1 Center. Jose Luis Villegas jvillegas@sacbee.com

Stauffer said watching the game under such circumstances was "weird" given the seriousness of the protest.

"For me it's weird because I'd like to come enjoy a basketball game, but there's also kind of a dark cloud over the game that makes it hard to enjoy," Stauffer said. "I'm here to enjoy a leisurely basketball game, but the protesters are protesting something that's legitimate and important. And because of that experience coming in, I haven't been able to really get settled in and enjoy the game because I can't stop thinking about how unimportant this compared to what's going on outside."

Stauffer and Silva both said they never felt unsafe at any point and neither were worried about leaving the arena.

"I'm all in support of the Black Lives Matter movement," Silva said. "I'm all in support of the young man that got killed. No one should be shot at their house 20 times, I think that's excessive. that's my take on it."

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