RIO DE JANEIRO — No gold, no glory.

That’s the way it is for the U.S. men’s basketball team. The Americans, the standard in the sport since winning their first 63 games after it debuted 80 years ago in the Olympics, are either winners or failures.

There is no celebrating silver.

When they leave, it can be with only one thing around their necks.

“That’s what we came here for and we don’t want to leave with anything less than the gold medal,” Carmelo Anthony said.

Anthony and the Americans will play for their third straight gold Sunday when they face Serbia, a team of heroes back home.

The players have restored the pride of a basketball-crazed country and already secured their first medal since becoming an independent nation in 2006. And as they whooped it up following their 87-61 semifinal rout of Australia on Friday, it was easy to think the Serbs’ work was finished.

Their coach won’t let them.

“I know just two ways,” Sasha Djordjevic said. “You just play basketball or you just play basketball to win. You guys don’t know me but my answer is B.”

Yet the Serbs delivered a happy-to-be-here performance last time they had a crack at the Americans for a championship.

The teams met in 2014 in Madrid in the Basketball World Cup final and the Americans romped to a 129-92 victory, finishing a tournament where they won by 33 points per game.

“Two years ago in Spain we get into the game not mentally ready,” Serbia captain Milos Teodosic said. “We were too much happy that we reached the final, and we had that experience and we cannot allow that to repeat.”

The U.S. isn’t expecting it.

These Olympics have been way too tough to believe they will end easily. This U.S. team, less talented and experienced then the last two gold medalists, has already had four games decided by 10 points or less.

The close calls didn’t play well back home, where winning big in basketball is the American way. But they were just what this team needed to get ready.

“It’s made this journey a little sweeter now that we’re in the gold-medal game,” Kevin Durant said.

The Americans rolled into Rio de Janeiro unbeaten in 10 years, such an overwhelming favorite that Djordjevic predicted early in the tournament that it would be a “long way to go” before somebody beat the Americans.

Then his team nearly did it last week. The Serbs provided the toughest in a string of tough games for the Americans, the U.S. winning 94-91.

“Serbia came within a whisker of beating us in our pool play so we absolutely respect them,” U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “We know how good they are.”

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