LOS ANGELES (AP) - Candace Parker showed the Los Angeles Sparks just what they were missing during her long injury absence.
In her first game in nearly a year, Parker had 19 points and 10 rebounds as the Sparks beat the Minnesota Lynx 82-74 on Friday night in the opener of the WNBA's 15th 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, who hadn't played a WNBA game since last June 13 when she dislocated her left shoulder, made 6 of 9 field goals and scored 13 points in the first half.
She had surgery in late June and wasn't cleared to return to the court until November. Parker played in Russia before the WNBA season, but missed being with the Sparks.
``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.'
The Sparks made 7 of 14 3-pointers in the second half and never trailed in the fourth quarter.
The Lynx shot just 35.7 percent in the final period while the Sparks made 53.3 percent of their shots.
The nationally televised game marked the debut of highly touted WNBA rookie Maya Moore, who led the Lynx with 21 points and added four rebounds and four assists.
Moore led Connecticut to consecutive NCAA championships (2009-10), became the seventh women's player to score over 3,000 career points, and was the No. 1 pick in this year's WNBA draft.
She had six points in the final five minutes, including three free throws that tied the game at 73, and scored her team's first basket with a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer on the right wing.
``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.'
The Sparks trailed by as many as 10 points in the third quarter, but made 5 of 10 3-pointers in the period - including three by Noelle Quinn - to regain the lead.
Trailing 57-51, the Sparks went on an 8-0 run - capped by Parker's putback - to take a one-point lead into the final period.
``I think it was a team effort and a defensive effort,' Quinn said. ``Our defense generated our offense.'
Quinn finished with 11 points. Tina Thompson had 15, and Kristi Tolliver added 10 points for the Sparks.
Former Sparks center Lisa Leslie and new WNBA president Laurel Richie were among those in attendance.
Rebekkah Brunson had 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Lindsay Whalen added 10 points for the Lynx, who were outrebounded by eight and didn't score in the final 90 seconds.
``We did a lot of switching on them and they were more focused on shooting 3s instead of 2s and we did a good job of eliminating that,' Gillom said. ``So I think that was very effective toward the end.'
The Associated Press News Service
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