Maya Moore couldn't quite overshadow Candace Parker in her much-hyped WNBA debut.
The highly touted rookie led Connecticut to consecutive NCAA championships (2009-10), became the seventh women's player to score at least 3,000 collegiate points and was the No. 1 pick in this year's WNBA draft.
She led the way with 21 points for Minnesota in Friday's 82-74 loss at Los Angeles in the season opener for both teams.
"I was a little anxious, but I was excited to play," Moore said. "It was just exciting when the game started and you start making the first couple of shots, get into a rhythm, and you realize this is still basketball."
Her performance wasn't enough to prevent the Sparks from winning their eighth straight over the Lynx. Parker was the catalyst with 19 points and 10 rebounds in her first game in nearly a year.
Parker hadn't played a WNBA game since last June 13, when she dislocated her left shoulder. She made 6 of 9 field goals and scored 13 points in the first half, displaying the form that made her league MVP in 2008 after she was the first overall pick in the draft that season.
"Candace is back. She's back," Sparks coach Jennifer Gillom said. "The girl is just amazing.
"I love that she's back to where she can play any position now. That's the Candace that I've known from years back as a rookie."
Parker had surgery in late June and wasn't cleared to return to the court until November. She played in Russia before the WNBA season, but missed being with Los Angeles.
"I was extremely emotional before the game because it's been almost a year since I've been able to run through that tunnel and run onto that floor," Parker said. "I was excited to get out there, a little nervous. It was so much fun to be back there on the floor with my teammates."
Minnesota led by as many as 10 points in the third quarter, but the Lynx were outrebounded 41-33 and their bench was outscored 29-18 by the Los Angeles reserves.
The Lynx haven't been to the playoffs since 2004, having been derailed in the past by injuries to Seimone Augustus and Candice Wiggins. Minnesota, which went 7-10 at home last season, has a healthy roster now and is hoping to provide a bright spot in a gloomy local sports scene.
"The Wild's been struggling, Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves," Augustus said. "Everyone's kind of leaning on our shoulders. We welcome that opportunity for us to put some smiles on some people's faces around here."