- Associated Press - Sunday, August 5, 2012

LONDON — No looking ahead to the medal round yet. Not when Argentina is the next opponent for the U.S. men’s basketball team.

Not even if the game is largely meaningless for the Americans.

The U.S. technically hasn’t clinched the top seed in its pool yet, but the Americans would have to lose Monday by the kind of monstrous margin they usually beat teams by to fall out of first place.

“We don’t come here to lose,” LeBron James said. “We come here to play at a high level and continue to get better. We don’t have time to waste and say, ‘OK, well, since we have the tiebreaker and all that, we can just go out and just lollygag.’”

Not to mention the Americans have too much history with Argentina, too much respect for Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola, and too much to clean up after a close call against Lithuania, to think they wouldn’t be focused in the final game before quarterfinal play begins.

The last step before the knockout stage promises to be a rugged one.

The Argentines will push and pull, foul or flop, whatever it takes to slow the Americans down to their preferred pace.

“They just try to get under our skins,” U.S. forward Carmelo Anthony said. “If you want to consider them a rival of the U.S., then so be it, but we’ll be ready.”

The Americans returned to the practice court Sunday after beating Lithuania 99-94 on Saturday. The Americans needed to rely on some big plays from James and Chris Paul to avoid their first Olympic loss since 2004.

“We didn’t look sharp at all,” Anthony said. “They kind of caught us off guard a little bit, you know, had us on our heels for a moment.”

Added forward Kevin Love: “It was great. We needed a game like that.”

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