LOS ANGELES -- Despite the presence of one of the best players in women's collegiate basketball history in their lineup for the first time, the Lynx could not break a losing streak against one of the WNBA's perennial powers Friday night.
Maya Moore led all scorers with 21 points in her professional debut, but the Los Angeles Sparks rallied for an 82-74 victory over the Lynx in both teams' season opener before an announced 13,589 at Staples Center.
The Lynx lost their eighth consecutive meeting to Los Angeles since 2009, and they have not beaten the Sparks -- coached by former Lynx coach Jen Gillom -- on the road in six games since 2008.
Moore -- the only three-time winner of the Wade Trophy as the best women's collegiate player, an All-America who led Connecticut to two NCAA championships and 90 consecutive victories -- was the first overall choice in April's WNBA draft.
Moore began the game by receiving the loudest ovation of any of the Lynx starters, who otherwise were greeted with silence.
"I was just a little anxious, excited to play," said Moore, who added that it took "maybe four trips or so" up and down the court to get into the game's flow.
"I think everybody was trying to get their rhythm," Moore said. "I felt pretty confident with what we were running and getting more familiar with my teammates."
Moore channeled that confidence and familiarity into six baskets in her first 13 shots from the floor after three quarters, though she went 1-for-4 from the floor in the fourth.
"Maya was shooting the ball well," Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. "That's the first time we had that with her. In two pre-season games, she struggled a lot."
Los Angeles star Tina Thompson, the WNBA's all-time leading scorer, had to confront Moore's agility while guarding her.
"She's very active," Thompson said. "They send her off a lot of picks, so getting through all those motions as a defender could be pretty difficult."
For WNBA President Laurel Richie, Moore is playing a pivotal role even before the season-opening tip.
"The initial signs are showing that her presence is having an impact," Richie said before the game. "I know that ticket sales were up both in her market and around the league."
Candace Parker, who finished with 19 points, 10 rebounds and three rebounds for the Sparks, gave Moore perhaps the ultimate compliment.
"I think she'll do great things in this league," Parker said. "She'll be a tough matchup for everyone."
Both teams exchanged the lead seven times and tied the score five times in the first half before the Lynx used a 7-0 spurt in the final 1 minute, 28 seconds of the half to take a 43-37 halftime lead.
The Lynx then used their defense to extend their advantage to 50-40 with 6:43 left in the third quarter.
The Sparks committed three turnovers in the first 2:17 of the period and scored just three points on free throws in the first 3:33.
But Los Angeles used a 22-7 surge to move ahead 62-57 with 18 seconds gone in the fourth quarter. Noelle Quinn scored nine points and reserve Jenna O'Hea added six, as the Sparks hit six shots from three-point range.
"We should've called a timeout; we didn't call a timeout," Reeve said. "We thought we could get through it with whom they had on the floor. But that group just buried us."
The Lynx tied the score at 73-73 when Moore made three free throws with 3:04 to play after Thompson fouled her as she tried a three-pointer.
But DeLisha Milton-Jones made a turnaround jumper with 2:36 remaining, then added two foul shots with 1:35 left to extend the Sparks' lead to 77-73.
"We didn't play very good defense on the three-point line," Moore said. "That's how teams get back into games, by knocking down threes. Toward the end, we lost the battle on the boards. With that combination, we shouldn't have won."
Moore went 4-for-11 on three-pointers and also had four rebounds and four assists. Lindsay Whalen added 11 points and Rebekkah Brunson had 10 points and 11 rebounds for the Lynx.