Both Carlisle and Nowitzki were not present at the team's morning shootaround.
Monte Mathis, who serves as the team's defensive coordinator, replaced Carlisle against the Bucks. Mathis also stepped in for Carlisle after he was ejected from a game against the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 23.
"I talked to him once coming into the arena, but I didn't talk to him before shootaround," Mathis, speaking before the game, said of Carlisle. "We talked about minutes for different guys and how we want to do substitutions. He pretty much said to go by feel and go with your gut."
It was the first game Carlisle has missed since Dec. 27, 2010, when assistant Dwane Casey coached the Mavericks past the Oklahoma City Thunder a day after Carlisle underwent arthroscopic knee surgery.
Nowitzki hadn't missed a game all season.
Last season, he sat out the first 27 games while recovering from arthroscopic right knee surgery and missed two games later due to a right adductor strain. Dallas went 13-16 without Nowitzki in the lineup last season and is now 38-37 all time when he doesn't play.
"Everybody has got to step up in different areas," Mathis said. "Nobody can go out of their game to do well. ... Everyone has to come together as a unit."
Dallas did get back center/forward Brandan Wright, who was active for the first time since suffering a nondisplaced fracture in his left shoulder Oct. 8. He had 19 points on 9-of-10 shooting in 19 minutes.
"He's going to have to step up," Mathis said before the game. "There's not necessarily a particular minutes limit. We know a little bit of how much we want to play him. He's not going to play the whole game, but it'll be a good pick me up for the team."
Bryan Gutierrez is a contributor to ESPNDallas.com.