As hoped, Harris lighting it up off bench

DALLAS -- The blur-off-the-bench role seems to suit Devin Harris, at least judging by his statistics.

“I like any role at this point,” Harris said. “I’m just happy to be back on the floor.”

The Mavs are more than pleased with his production since Harris recovered from summer toe surgery and chipped off the rust from watching the first half of the season. In the past five games, Harris has averaged 13.0 points and 4.6 assists in 20.2 minutes per game, shooting 52.8 percent from the floor in that span.

Pretty impressive for a guy still working himself into game shape.

“He’s been great,” Dirk Nowitzki said. “We were hoping he was going to give us that, but I didn’t know how quickly he was going to find his rhythm. But he looks great. He says he’s getting tired pretty quick still, but you can’t really tell.”

Harris has done a good job working out of half-court sets, particularly as a pick-and-roll ball handler, but he’s at his best attacking in transition. He said he still doesn’t feel he’s regained all of his lateral quickness, which is why he’s not satisfied with his defensive work, but Harris appears as fast as ever with the ball in his hands in the open court.

“Straight ahead has never been a problem,” said Harris, who had a season-high 16 points and four assists in Monday’s 124-107 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Coming off the bench isn’t a problem for Harris, either. Not that he’d be opposed to playing more minutes as he plays into better shape.

“I’m just trying to find my way, trying to use what I can to be effective on the floor at this point,” Harris said. “Obviously, anyone wants a more expanded role, but this is what I have right now. I’ve got to make the best of it.”

Way to go, Wayne: Nowitzki and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle both made a point to praise reserve wing Wayne Ellington without prompting.

It’s not as if Ellington had a pretty line Monday. He had only three points, three rebounds and two assists while shooting 1-of-5 in 19 minutes. But the Mavs appreciated Ellington, who hadn’t played since Jan. 22, being ready when his number was called after fill-in starting small forward Jae Crowder picked up two fouls less than two minutes into the game.

“He didn’t have gaudy stats, but he came in the game when Crowder got two fouls and immediately got two rebounds,” Carlisle said. “He was active defensively and just brought us some positive energy. He made an impact.”

Added Nowitzki: “I thought Wayne was great. He hasn’t played much as of late, but the guy has been professional, working. He was ready to play.”

Gift for the big German: The number in Nowitzki’s line that he was most excited about wasn’t his 23 points or eight rebounds. It was the 29 minutes, 34 seconds of playing time, a few below his norm this season.

Carlisle had the luxury of letting Nowitzki sit out the final seven minutes because the Mavs, a team with a disturbing tendency to blow big leads, didn’t let the Cavs mount a comeback bid.

“It’s like a gift,” Nowitzki said of not having to check back into the game for crunch time. “It really is. Obviously, the longer you sit over there, the more stiff I get. That was awesome. Every time that happens, I get very excited. The guys did a good job closing it out. That was fantastic.”