LONDON -- Carmelo Anthony doesn't want to mess around against Argentina. Not after the close call against Lithuania.
Anthony, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and the rest of the star-studded U.S. basketball team have now been tested at the London Olympics -- and, admittedly, they weren't quite prepared for it.
The NBA's best players face another challenge Monday night when they wrap up pool play against the Argentines, who at 3-1 are not to be underestimated. Anthony acknowledged the Americans might have been caught slightly off guard by Lithuania's fight in a five-point victory Saturday.
"It was a little bit tighter than what we expected," Anthony said before practice Sunday. "Lithuania was focused, and it kind of caught us on our heels. We won't get caught on our heels again."
U.S. basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski is counting on more from Bryant as the stakes become higher, too. He had only six points, two rebounds, an assist and three fouls in 20 minutes against Lithuania.It's James, the NBA MVP from the champion Miami Heat, carrying the load and his country's hopes of a dominant run resembling the one by the 1992 Dream Team of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.
James showed the world he can be unstoppable in crunch time. And everybody on the U.S. squad hopes his performance will provide some nice momentum going into the next game.
With the U.S. leading by one late, James hit a 3-pointer, then followed with a dunk off a turnover to put his team ahead 92-86 with 3:41 to play. He also scored two more baskets over the final 2:10 and wound up with nine of the Americans' final 12 points and 20 in all.
This dynamic, high-flying bunch insists the accomplishments of those former NBA greats are far from their minds at the moment.
The first priority is locking up a No. 1 seed from their pool heading into the quarterfinal rounds and a move from Olympic Park to the soon-to-be-vacated gymnastics venue.
Argentina, meanwhile, is coming off Saturday's 93-79 win over Nigeria and led by as many as 26. The roster features the likes of well-known NBA names Luis Scola and Manu Ginobili.
James is all for the idea of getting back to basics.
"We have to defend and we have rebound. It's a very good team and we look forward to the challenge," he said. "They play as a team and that's what it's all about. They move the ball you know and they play together so that has to do about why they continue to be successful."
France handed the Argentines their lone blemish with a stunning 71-64 victory last Tuesday in the second game of Olympic preliminary play. Otherwise, Argentina has looked like a contender.
"First of all, we respect them guys, most importantly," Anthony said. "But then again, we go out there trying to win by any means necessary. They're trying to do the same things."
James put it more simply.
"We don't come here to lose," he said.