The Mavs' superstar returned after a nine-game absence in Memphis on Saturday but didn't finish the game as Dallas continued to struggle, falling 89-70 to the Grizzlies.
Nowitzki, who was sidelined due to a sprained right knee suffered against Oklahoma City on Dec. 27, started Saturday's game, but was ejected in the third quarter after being called for a foul against Zach Randolph. Nowitzki was then hit with a pair of technical fouls and ended the night with seven points and five rebounds in 15 minutes of action.
Ian Mahinmi scored 17 to lead Dallas, which struggled to a 32.4 percent shooting performance and was held to the lowest point total this season. It included a 6-of-31 showing from three-point range. Shawn Marion had 11 points for the Mavs, who have lost a season-high five in a row overall for the first time since a five-game skid from November 7-14, 2008.
Dallas, which is 12-5 on the road, hasn't had a six-game slide since Feb. 29 to March 9, 2000.
The Pistons, meanwhile, have been playing better basketball recently, winning their second consecutive game on Saturday in Auburn Hills when Rodney Stuckey scored eight of his 19 points in the final 4:37, as Detroit rallied past the Sacramento Kings, 110-106.
Tayshaun Prince added 21 points and six rebounds for the Pistons.
Detroit's bench also played a big part in the victory. Will Bynum chipped in 18 points while Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva each had 16. Austin Daye added two points to give the Pistons 52 points from their reserves.
"We broke it down in the defensive end, at the same time we came out strong, real strong," Detroit forward Villanueva said. "They were making everything it seemed like. They shot 70 percent towards the end of the first half, but we turned it up and had some shots that went in."
The Mavs have won five straight against the Pistons, including an 88-84 victory in Big D on Nov. 23. Nowitzki has averaged 29.0 points in those games.