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Candace Parker, Sparks open season with a win

The WNBA opened its 15th season with a marquee matchup -- Candace Parker versus Maya Moore, the queen of the league against the new princess of high expectations.

Experience prevailed.

In Parker’s first WNBA game since sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury last June, the star forward had a team-high 19 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Sparks to an 82-74 victory over the Minnesota Lynx and their No.1 overall draft pick at Staples Center in front of an announced crowd of 13,589.

The score was tied, 73-73, with 3:04 to play before the Sparks won it with a 9-1 run behind excellent defense and offensive power from Parker and forward DeLisha Milton-Jones, who scored four of her eight points in that stretch.

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“The second half we came out defensive minded,” said Sparks Coach Jennifer Gillom. “That’s something I’ve been trying to emphasize to my players.”

The third quarter belonged to the Sparks’ Noelle Quinn. The Lynx led by as many as 10 points, but Quinn hit three three-point shots to tie the score, 57-57, with 59 seconds remaining in the quarter. Parker then made a layup to give the Sparks a 59-57 lead going into the fourth.

“Our bench is what saved us and won us the game,” Parker said.

Parker and Moore soared in the first half.

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In one sequence, Parker took a rebound, drove the length of the court and lightly banked the ball in. Moore responded a few minutes later with a finger-roll, on her way to a game-high 21 points.

Parker’s play was a sight to see for Sparks fans, who watched their team go 13-21 last year while she was sidelined. Before having surgery last June, the 6-foot-4 Parker had suffered multiple shoulder dislocations, having initially dislocated her left shoulder during her senior year at Tennessee.

meilssa.rohlin@latimes.com


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