LOCALS IN LONDON
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LONDON — Once was enough. Carmelo Anthony doesn't want to mess around against Argentina.
Not after a close call with 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 overlooked. 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."
Also on Monday's schedule is the 400-meter final at Olympic Stadium, a race that will be missing some its luster: Defending Olympic champion LaShawn Merritt is out because of an injured left hamstring he hurt halfway through Saturday's qualifying heat.
Double-amputee Oscar Pistorius won't be there, either. The South African sprinter nicknamed "Blade Runner" finished last in his 400 semifinal heat Sunday night.
Across town at O2 Arena, Olympic all-around champion Gabby Douglas tries for a third gymnastics gold medal in the individual uneven bars — the first of her last two events at the London Games. Douglas, who also helped the U.S. capture its first Olympic team title since 1996, competes in the balance beam Tuesday.
On the men's side, American Sam Mikulak competes in Monday's vault final.
For the U.S. basketball team, James is carrying the load and his country's hopes of a dominant run like the one by the 1992 Dream Team that featured Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird.
James says the U.S. needs to get back to the basics against Argentina, which features NBA players Luis Scola and Manu Ginobili.
"We have to defend and we have to rebound," James said. "It's a very good team and we look forward to the challenge. They play as a team and that's what it's all about."
James' teammates and coach Mike Krzyzewski hope his performance against Lithuania will provide some momentum going into their next game.
With the U.S. leading by one late against Lithuania, James hit a 3-pointer, then followed with a dunk off of a turnover to put his team ahead 92-86 with 3:41 to play. The NBA MVP from the champion Miami Heat 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.
Krzyzewski is also counting on more from Bryant as the stakes become higher. He went 1 of 7 for six points, and had two rebounds, an assist and three fouls in 20 minutes against Lithuania.
The Americans' priority is to lock up a No. 1 seed from their pool heading into the quarterfinal rounds, which will be played at the bigger, and soon-to-be-vacated, gymnastics venue, not at the basketball arena at Olympic Park.
Argentina, meanwhile, is coming off Saturday's 93-79 victory against Nigeria, a team the U.S. beat by 83. France handed the Argentines their lone blemish with a 71-64 upset 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.