Minnesota spoiled the season debut of Candace Parker thanks to the play of Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen in an 82-76 win over the Sparks Wednesday night.
Moore finished with 27 points, and Whalen was not far behind with 24. The two combined for Minnesota's (13-4) final 12 points.
"We had a hard time keeping them off the free-throw line. We turned the ball over where they converted some shots," Los Angeles head coach Brian Agler said of the two's play. "I thought in the quarter court; we did pretty well defensively. That being said, there's a long way we can go and still improve."
Parker had 12 points, seven rebounds and nine assists in her return from resting the first half of the season.
"I just treated it like I treated any other game," Parker said. "Obviously a little bit more excited, it was a little bit tougher to take a pregame nap, but I'm excited to be back. It wasn't the outcome we expected, but we can build off this."
The Sparks (3-14) pulled within 76-73 with 2:31 remaining before the Lynx responded with a 6-0 run.
Minnesota jumped to a double-digit lead in the opening minutes of the second quarter behind Whalen's six points within the stretch.
The Sparks used an 8-1 third-quarter run to pull within the single possession that gave them a chance.
Parker wasn't the only player on the court that night that had to be incorporated into the game plan. The Sparks also saw the return of Alana Beard for the first time since June 14, missing 14 games with a foot injury.
"It's a little difficult when you have new pieces coming back in and out," Los Angeles guard Kristi Toliver said. "It's a good thing that we have healthy bodies again, but it's also a little bit of a struggle to reincorporate people and to build that chemistry, so it's a matter of finding the balance and building it quickly."
On the other side of the ball, Minnesota's Sylvia Fowles was playing her first game in a Minnesota uniform after being acquired Monday from Chicago.
Beard finished with eight points, and Fowles had 11.
"Both teams offensively I thought were pretty good despite some of the new-ness," Minnesota head coach Cheryl Reeve said. "There were many possessions out there where multiple players didn't know what the heck was going on. So, both teams kind of working through the new players that are in the fold now.
"For us, it was our defense, it was feast or famine - we either turned them over, or they scored. It's a really good team; they're really good players," Reeve added. "Obviously, you can't look at their record, we talked to our players about that, it had nothing to do with their record - this is a really good basketball team. They shot way too high of a percentage, we clearly weren't happy with that."
With the win, Minnesota avoided losing back-to-back home games for the first time since 2013 and handed Los Angeles its eighth straight road loss.