Francis made five free throws in the final 20 seconds of his first win with New York, Eddy Curry had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and the Knicks snapped a six-game losing streak with a 103-98 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.
“I got the game ball,” Francis said. “I study basketball a lot. Things like that are significant to me. I’ll keep that ball and send it to my house.”
Jalen Rose had 19 points and Quentin Richardson 18 in the Knicks’ rare road win that kept the Bucks, currently in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, from matching last season’s total of 30 wins, when they finished 30-52.
The Knicks won for only the third time in 25 games and picked up their fifth road win of the season.
After two tough losses in games they felt they should have won, the Knicks didn’t let this one escape despite blowing a 17-point, third-quarter lead.
“We felt in the previous two games, we played pretty well,” Curry said. “Down the stretch, we kind of gave the games away. Tonight, we found ourselves in the same position and we just didn’t let this one slip.”
Knicks coach Larry Brown said his team did all the little things that usually mean victory.
“We had a little more poise,” he said. “We used the clock a little bit better. I think we got into our stuff a little bit better.”
The Knicks missed 11 free throws, but Francis made them when it counted as New York ended its 12-game road losing streak.
“Tonight, we were able to finish it off,” he said after going 6-for-8 from the line, including 5-for-6 down the stretch.
Francis finished with 11 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in 23 minutes.
With New York ahead by one, Stephon Marbury, who had eight points, missed two free throws before Smith hit a jumper with 2:21 left that gave Milwaukee a 94-93 lead. Malik Rose hit jumper and the Knicks had the lead again and didn’t lose it.
“It would have been awful tough losing a 17-point lead and not having anything to show for it,” Brown said.
Francis found Marbury for another score as the Knicks pushed the lead to 97-94 with 1:10 left.
Richardson made one free throw with 31 seconds remaining. The Bucks called time, and on the ensuing play, Redd made a tough shot to make it 98-96. However, Francis followed with his five free throws to keep New York ahead.
Trailing 88-86, the Knicks regained the lead on Jalen Rose’s 3-pointer and four points from Malik Rose that gave New York a five-point margin.
The Bucks finally got untracked in the third quarter and made it a game.
Smith had seven points during a 15-3 run, capped by Charlie Bell’s long 3-pointer at the buzzer off a Knicks’ turnover, that trimmed the Knicks’ 17-point lead to 74-72 at the end of the quarter.
Richardson sliced through the Bucks’ porous defense for a layup that gave the Knicks a 62-45 lead with 1:10 left before the half, prompting the Bucks to call a timeout and some in the crowd to boo.
“They set the tone early,” Bucks coach Terry Stotts said. “We got down early and the Knicks played with some desperation.”
The Knicks, who shot 55 percent in the second quarter, led 34-21 at the end of the first.
The Knicks are 2-15 away from home against Eastern Conference teams. … Knicks rookie Nate Robinson was inactive for the sixth straight game. He has played only once since winning the slam dunk competition at All-Star weekend.